Saints suffer at the Seaside

Mark Pitman reports from The Marston’s Stadium as Afan Lido upset the Welsh Premier League leaders. Gareth Elms was on hand for the photo’s.

Afan Lido eased their Welsh Premier League relegation worries on Friday night with the result and performance of the season. League leaders The New Saints arrived at the Marston’s Stadium looking to return to form after a rare home defeat to Bangor City the week before. Andy Dyer’s side had already defeated the only other full-time club at home this season when they edged past Neath back in August and more recently had frustrated a list of clubs challenging at the top of the table with draws against champions Bangor City, Llanelli and Neath. Addressing their limitations with a defensive line-up had suitably upset their superior opponents, but the fact that the side had not scored more than one goal in any of their previous fifteen league games this season explained their place in the bottom two.

The New Saints have seen their lead at the top cut in recent weeks but a 3-0 win over Afan Lido at Park Hall earlier in the season offered an indication that the club could and should retain their place at the top of the table following this latest fixture. While Bangor City were claiming a memorable 4-3 win at Park Hall the week before, Afan Lido were slumping to a comfortable 3-1 reverse at bottom-half side Airbus UK Broughton in a match that their usually solid defence had been easily exposed. The New Saints have consistently challenged at the top of the Welsh Premier League over the last decade and the chance of the side losing two consecutive games meant that the smart money was firmly on the visitors for this latest match. Continue reading

Saints sitting pretty in latest Aesop variation

The Greek fabulist Aesop was attributed to the famous old fable of the hare and the tortoise and a new re-enactment of the story has evolved from the current Principality Welsh Premier League season. The modern-day comparison reached a poignant stage in the story last week when The New Saints overtook, and then extended their lead, over Bangor City at the top of the table without breaking a sweat while their rivals continued to reacted to letting go a one-time sixteen point lead by further losing ground on their consistent professional rivals with yet another defeat.

The title race began back in August as Bangor City took the proverbial approach of the hare by incredibly winning their opening fifteen league games as their rivals, as steady but also as slow as the hare’s opposing tortoise, dropped four points from their opening five games as the Welsh Premier League began its new-look campaign with results that justified its claim of being the most competitive season in the league’s history. Included in Bangor City’s run of fifteen wins was a 4-3 win over The New Saints, but for all the potential of their flying start, The New Saints have moved into the crucial part of the campaign with the advantage and now look favourites to retain their title of league champions. Continue reading

Worth the admission price alone?

Mark Pitman, our Welsh wizard, brings us another Welsh football weekend double as Neath take on The New Saints in the Principality Welsh Premier League and Wales take on England in a European Championship qualifier. With little in common initially a glaring familiar theme emerges however, as the wallets of football fans across the country become subject to situation exploitation at every level of the game and the occasion of it.

Neath 2-2 The New Saints – Principality Welsh Premier League – 25th March 2011
A popular football phrase for a flash of on the field brilliance before it was replaced with modern day Sky nonsense such as ‘take a bew, son’ or ‘unbelievable tekkers’ is the more traditional ‘that was worth the admission price alone’ or variations thereof. Neath invested in their own brand of tekker-potential in the summer with the signing of Lee Trundle headlining the arrival of a number of former Football League stars with significant Swansea City connections, and while the flashes of brilliance have been few and far between, a new initiative by the South Wales club seems set to backfire spectacularly.

A common debate in the English Premier League revolves around the fact that the everyday football fan is being priced out of the game by the greed of their clubs. From over-priced merchandise to four-figure season tickets, the revenue streams at Britain’s biggest clubs play a significant part in the young players from across the world becoming very rich, very soon. The average fan in the street resents the exploitation but the worldwide interest of the Premier League means there is a constant stream of revenue. Interestingly, the Principality Welsh Premier League acknowledged this growing resentment, and used it in their marketing campaign at the start of the season. Continue reading

The season to send and receive

For this week’s regular view of events in the Welsh Premier League we head down to the coastal resort of Port Talbot where Mark Pitman provides the words and Tomos Lewis the pictures.

Port Talbot Town 0-2 The New Saints – Welsh Premier League – 11th December 2010
Christmas is a time for the giving and receiving of cards and gifts and this Principality Welsh Premier League match at The GenQuip Stadium kept in with the festive traditions. Freezing weather had dominated the league headlines recently with a string of postponements but a Saturday morning pitch inspection by match referee Mark Whitby confirmed that the visit of the league champions would take place. Continue reading

Y bêl yn rownd

It’s not all beaches, ice cream and lava bread down here in Wales you know.  Part of my work for the week is to look at the state of Welsh football, quoted a month ago by Neville Southall as “in the last chance saloon” and obviously take in a game or two in the process.  There are some real good news stories in the valleys of South Wales at the moment.  Dean Holdsworth has led Newport County into the Blue Square Premier after walking the Blue Square South league last season and Cardiff City have been to Wembley three times in the past two seasons just missing out on a spot in the Premier League to accompany their new stadium a few months ago.

So what is Southall talking about?  He was referring to the dire situation in the Welsh Premier League.  On Friday 13th August the new slimmed down Welsh Premier League will kick off with The New Saints (aka TNS) taking on Prestatyn Town in what is seen as the last throw of the dice to make the league work.  The Welsh Premier League have been ruthless this time, reducing the league by 6 teams and applying a strict entry criteria for the twelve that remain.  The league does not have any major sponsor, vast pots of TV money or overseas commercial rights.  It is a league where part time clubs face some long slow journeys to away games to play matches in front of a couple of hundred people, whilst in the pub next door more people will be watching Sky Sports. Continue reading