TNS Spurn Opportunity To Go Top – Is The Saints’ Dominance Finally Being Challenged?

Albeit just eight games into the new season, the top of the JD Welsh Premier League has an unfamiliar look to it. As we near the halfway point of Phase 1 in the competition, Bangor City proudly sit top of the pile looking down on the rest of the league.

On Saturday, Bangor City’s bright start to the season continued when they saw off Bala Town to notch their fifth victory in six league outings and go two points clear; both Connah’s Quay and The New Saints had the chance to close that lead when they met on Tuesday night.

The New Saints, who had not even conceded a league goal since their shock 5-2 defeat to Bangor City on the opening night of the season, took a short-lived lead when Greg Draper fired them in front.

But within two minutes, the Saints’ defence was finally breeched when recent Connah’s Quay signing Mathias Bakare found himself unchallenged as he sprinted with the ball down the right flank and picked out Jay Owen who pounced first time to level.

Despite an evenly contested half, Connah’s Quay found themselves trialling at the break after Greg Draper took full advantage of a mishit pass from goalkeeper John Danby to claim his second goal of the evening.

And a bright start from the Nomads was rewarded when they awarded a penalty which Callum Morris duly converted with a powerful finish, making it 2-2.

The Saints were kept at bay as they applied pressure in the latter stages leaving the two sides to settle for a the points with Bangor City’s position at the top of the table remaining intact.

Just how long City can continue to set the pace remains to be seen.

The Phase 1 formbook is only just starting to settle and it’s only now you can truly begin to assess where each team is at. Phase 2 of the season is an entirely different monster and it’s top-six-bottom-six format has lent itself as an advantage to The New Saints in previous seasons, as the teams attempting to hang onto their coattails continually score points off one another.

Whilst it’s too early to say for sure, could this year be any different? If any team is to genuinely challenge The New Saints then they will need to prove that they have pushed on a level as opposed to the rest of the top-six weakening.

Cardiff Met certainly seem to be a more rounded outfit this season and Colin Caton will surely turnaround Bala Town’s unexpectedly poor start sooner rather than later – even if it has already cost them their status of being considered possible challengers.

And despite being sent into a off-field period of transition following the announcement that Gary Dewhurst will no longer invest into the club, Connah’s Quay for this season at least, look as solid and uncompromising as they’ve ever done.

The fact is that if Bangor City are going to maintain a title push and give the WPL a much needed title race, Kevin Nicholson and Gary Taylor-Fletcher are going to have to do it the hard way.

Key Phase 1 fixtures:

17 Nov Connah’s Quay v Bangor City
15 Dec Connah’s Quay v The New Saints
13 Jan The New Saints v Bangor City

Featured image courtesy of NCM Media

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