Six games in, the early JD Welsh Premier League table will make for frustrating reading if you’re Bala Town manager Colin Caton.
At first glance, their fifth-place position seems pretty much on par, but results-wise it’s been another patchy start for the Lakesiders, who risk giving themselves an awful lot of work to do later in the season.
It’s testament to just how the far the club have come under Caton that you know where or whereabouts Bala Town are going to finish in the league each season. Top six? Nailed on. Europe? Almost certain. Title challengers? No.
But you know they will be one of the main clubs leading the chase.
The club also pulled off a significant transfer coup during the summer by bringing Henry Jones back to the Welsh Premier League following his release from AFC Fylde. The former Swansea City product easily rates among the league’s best players.
Jones adds to what is an already well-established group of players with a proven WPL record, but something at Maes Tegid, or rather away from Maes Tegid, is awry.
Bala’s 3-2 reverse away to Aberystwyth last weekend was the side’s third defeat in as many away games. It was a result that did not leave Colin Caton pleased.
“I thought we were miles the better the team on the night, we were the only ones looking to get it down and play and I thought we dominated the game but it counts for nothing if you can’t stop the goals going in at one end,” he said after the defeat at Park Avenue.
“It’ll be interesting to see the stats, but they’ve had three shots on target and scored three goals, which is shocking.”
Awayday frustrations early into the season are nothing new for Bala and Caton – the club were in a near identical situation this time last season.
A year ago the issue for Bala was finding the back of the net rather than keeping them out away from Maes Tegid, as the team were beaten in all three of their opening away fixtures.
It’s difficult to see Bala bucking that trend this weekend with the toughest WPL trip of them all, away to The New Saints. Remarkably, the Lakesiders have never beaten The New Saints in the WPL and it’s hard to see Bala recording that illusive first away victory.
SCOTT RUSCOE’S STRIKER CONUNDRUM
In the opposing dugout, Scot Ruscoe has altogether different worries. Four straight wins and three points clear at the top, The New Saints look as formidable as ever.
But the worry for Ruscoe is just how does he keep all his squad happy? Saints possess the strength in depth that would allow them to field two starting elevens which would hold their own at WPL level.
One of the biggest challenges as manager of The New Saints is to keep the squad focused, fresh and avoiding complacency in a league where the players will know they are head and shoulders above everyone else in terms of both ability and conditioning.
The New Saints rarely move away from their tried and tested 4-2-3-1 formula, which has been the foundation on which several title winning teams have been built. It’s that last digit which will be giving Scott Ruscoe more to ponder than in previous seasons however: the ‘1’ up-front.
In Dean Ebbe and Greg Draper, The New Saints’ possess two genuine options to lead the line. Draper has a wonderful track record as a goal scorer at this level and 24-year-old Irishman Ebbe hasn’t looked out of place either since joining last January.
Ebbe has been starting, but Draper who’s been netting the goals and the New Zealander already leads the league’s scoring charts with five from four substitute appearances.
The New Saints’ early elimination from the Irn-Bru Cup wouldn’t have helped matters either. The extra games against good quality opposition from Scotland would have certainly utilised their strength in depth, but now with the just the league games and domestic cup competitions to contend with, this is a headache which won’t be going away any time soon for Scott Ruscoe.
NEWS FROM AROUND THE GROUNDS
Craig Bellamy will be among the familiar faces turning out for WPL legend Gary Lloyd’s testimonial on Sunday at Jenner Park (2.30) as a Barry Town Legends XI face a Welsh Premier League XI.
The Connah’s Quay squad were guests at Andy Morrison’s former club Manchester City on Wednesday night for their Champions League game against Lyon.
Llandudno midfielder Danny Hughes is line to make his 100th WPL start for the club this weekend against Connah’s Quay.
Friday: The New Saints v Bala Town. Saturday: Barry Town v Cefn Druids, Caernarfon v Llanelli, Carmarthen v Aberystwyth, Newtown v Cardiff Met, Llandudno v Connah’s Quay (late TV game).
|1||The New Saints||6||5||0||1||22||2||20||15|
|2||Connahs Quay Nomads||6||4||0||2||13||5||8||12|
|3||Barry Town United FC||6||3||1||2||8||10||-2||10|
|4||Cardiff Metropolitan University||6||3||0||3||7||6||1||9|
|10||Carmarthen Town AFC||6||2||1||3||6||12||-6||7|
|12||Llanelli Town AFC||6||1||1||4||6||18||-12||4|