In our second season preview, we take a look at the sides who haven’t quite reached the European heights in recent years – or not consistently, at least, in the case of Newtown – but have been some of the closest challengers.
We have recent JD Welsh Cup Finalists, JDWPL Playoff semi-finalists and finalists here in this preview, but could 2018/19 be the year either of these four sides make the European step?
Transfers in:Elliott Asai, Harri Rowe, Wes Baynes, Nashawn Blake, Leigh Jenkins, Ryan Edwards, Paolo Mendes, Alec Williams,
Transfers out:Sam Kersh, Tom Owens, Malcolm Melvin, John Owen, Ryan Wade, Ashley Young, Luke Borrelli, Kurt Sherlock
It was nearly the fairy-tale end to what was a rollercoaster season at Park Avenue for Aberystwyth, as they came up short against Connah’s Quay Nomads in the JD Welsh Cup Final, but the way in which the Seasiders picked themselves up and improved throughout the season was hugely exciting to watch.
They secured some huge results last season, not least on the way to their JD Welsh Cup Final appearance – thumping the holders, Bala Town, in the third round – but also in the league where they secured a major win over the Nomads, as in the second half of the season particularly Aber threatened became quite a force.
It will be a very challenging season with two hugely competitive teams joining the league’s ranks, as well as everyone else throughout the division strengthening significantly, but will Aber be able to make strides towards European football? Someone has to miss out, but you can bet the Seasiders will be spurred on by their experience in the cup last season and hungry for further progress.
Transfers in:Damien Allen, Ben Bailey, Jake Cook, Steven Leslie, Sam Phillips
Inspired by the form they showed in Phase Two of the 2016/17 season, The Robins saw their form soar to great heights in the latter stages of this most recent season, and with the emergence of some top talents for them throughout that run as well as some shrewd acquisitions over the summer months, they’ll be hoping to kick off the new season with similar positivity.
Ethan Jones has shown many moments which allude to his vast potential in since signing for Newtown, and many predict that 2018/19 could be a breakout year for the young striker, but elsewhere this is also a squad which is vastly talented and experienced.
Chris Hughes’ side have found attaining top six football a challenge in the last two seasons, but perhaps this year with the ability in their squad and the additions of the likes of Damian Allen, this is a side that may be able to break into the top six for Phase Two and secure an automatic playoff place.
Transfers in:Robbie Patten, Clayton Green, Modou Touray (loan), Marcus Jones
Transfers out:Ryan Newman, James Demetriou, Callum Sainty, James Saddler, Tyrrell Webbe
Barry Town United … wow, what a return they made to the JDWPL last season! Securing scalps away from home against The New Saints and Bangor City, Barry were a magnificently exciting team to watch last year who showed they were capable of adopting various styles of play and approaches to cater to whoever they were facing in the league with remarkable fluency.
This year, they face the daunting task of matching or improving upon that incredible output they managed last year, where they blazed through Phase Two to secure seventh spot and a European Playoff semi-final against local rivals Cardiff Met, but again this is another side that seems to have gone about their summer business superbly and set themselves up for the best possible chance of progression.
The Dragons won’t have the element of surprise this year. Everyone will be expecting a really fluid footballing side who can mix it up and match up against whoever they face, they’ll know all about what Gavin Chesterfield’s sides are like – to be fair, everyone knew these things in Phase Two last year but the Jenner Park outfit were still rarely tamed! – but you could certainly make the case for this year being even tougher.
Last season was delightfully exciting, and the impressive Dragons played a huge part in the narrative of the season – they’re sure to create more than their fair share of headlines this year, too, but will one of them be that this is a side who has secured top six football come the split? It’s going to be very interesting to watch!
Transfers in:Esa Aalto, Alex Lang, Matt Neale, Sam Snaith, Guto Williams (loan)
Transfers out: Josh Barnett
Could it be third time lucky for Cardiff Met in their quest for European football this time around? Christian Edwards’ side won’t even be thinking about that just yet. The focus will solely be on making sure they’re improving, one week at a time, before seeing where that leads them.
The European Playoff Final defeat against Cefn Druids shouldn’t overshadow what as an incredibly successful term for the Archers in many way last time out, as they led the league standings at one point and were playing some incredible football before an incredible injury list derailed their momentum somewhat and left Met struggling for form at a crucial stage of the season.
Adam Roscrow and Eliot Evans were just two of a number of players within Edwards’ squad who demonstrated just how immensely this side had improved from their first season in the JDWPL. The injury list was debilitating at times for Met, and whilst a simple criticism of the Archers as such may have been that they didn’t have enough strength in depth, to have what was up to eight starters out of the squad with injury at any one time is a scenario that nobody could have possibly planned for.
Having been through that experience, however, Met have clearly made sure to learn their lesson, as reinforcements have been added all over the pitch in recent months to further energise and focus an impressive outfit whose sole focus is to improve year-on-year. Can they break into the top three this term?
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