Cymru Premier’s Final Four Play-Off Finale Impossible To Predict

All four clubs entering this weekend’s JD Cymru Premier Play-Offs will be quietly fancying their chances of European qualification as the Welsh football season draws to a close.

South Wales clubs Penybont and Barry Town have secured home advantage by virtue of their league placing as they host Caernarfon Town and Newtown respectively, but there is little to separate the four sides.

The fans remain locked out of Cymru Premier games – a source of growing frustration amongst both fans and the clubs – but both games will be broadcast live over the weekend.

Barry Town can take a step closer to returning to Europe for a successive season when they host Caernarfon Town at Jenner Park (5:30, live on S4C/Sgorio).

And Gavin Chesterfield is looking to avoid a repeat of the Linnets’ previous play-off experience, which saw them crash out at the semi-final stage to Cardiff Met in the 2017/18 season.

“I learned that day that they’re not nice games to lose! We went into that one on great form and then fell woefully short and the better team won on the day. But we learned from the experience and have done really well in the years since,” said the Barry Town manager.

Barry’s own form has stuttered in Phase 2, however a victory on the final day of the season – incidentally against Caernarfon – leaves them going into the play-offs with a winning performance under their belt.

“We’ve played Caernarfon four times already this season and we probably know the majority of things about each other. Huw will probably say the same. Last Saturday we showed a good intensity, work ethic and character. That’s really pleasing for me because there wasn’t too much riding on the game

“This Saturday is obviously a hell of a lot different. It’s great to be at home and our record here is very good which we’re very proud of. But we know we’re up against a good team, so it’s a game to look forward to. It certainly whets the appetite,” said Chesterfield.

Caernarfon meanwhile come into the play-offs after a season in which they proved the doubters wrong. The departure of a number of seemingly key players at the start of the current season saw Huw Griffiths’ side tipped by many to struggle.

With an blend of youth and experience, Griffiths has been able to assemble an effective side who have shown this season they can hold their own against the very best in the league.

“Our first target at the beginning of the season was to remain in the league, our second was to get a top-six finish and a chance to qualify for Europe – both of which we have achieved. This is the first stage of our third target – ‘to qualify for Europe,” said Griffiths.

Caernarfon’s preparations for the play-offs were dealt a blow when a failed appeal for a contentious red card shown to goalkeeper Lewis Brass saw his suspension increased to two matches, making him ineligible for the semi-final.

“I’m a firm believer that over a season all teams get their fair share of luck which helps them in games, I don’t think that we so far have had its fair share, so maybe today will be our turn! We won’t though just be relying on luck. I know the lads will give everything they’ve got to ensure a win, they’re mentally and physically prepared and can’t wait for the challenge ahead.”

On Sunday, Penybont will enter the play-offs technically as favourites after claiming their highest ever league finish after securing fourth-place (12:15, live online via Sgorio). Bont will host the play-off’s lowest seeds Newtown, who contested with the league’s bottom-six clubs to finish top of the Play-Off Conference.

Rhys Griffith’s side have attracted plaudits throughout the league in a season in which they have evolved from relegation candidates to one of the Cymru Premier’s most respected sides.

Even being in contention to challenge for a place in Europe would’ve been a pipe dream for the club just a couple of years but if they can overcome Newtown, that far-off dream will be in touching distance of becoming reality.

Despite their bottom-half league position, Newtown will not be taken lightly by Penybont. The Robins rallied superbly in Phase 2 of the season to charge up the table and clinch their Play-0ff place with a game to spare.

Newtown have fond memories of their last European adventure when they beat Maltese side Valletta after winning the play-offs back in 2015.

Long-serving captain Craig Williams, who played in those European ties, says the squad’s experience of regularly qualifying for the play-offs can help them progress.

“We’ve got a few experienced players in the squad who have been there and done it, in terms of the play-off games. We’ve recruited well in January with Shane Sutton and Alex Fletcher coming in, who’ve both been with us in play-games before.

“I think for Penybont, it might be quite new for some of their guys so hopefully we’ve got a little bit of an edge in terms of experience, but on the day anything can happen.

“We’re in a good place and we’ll see where that takes us. We’re not taking anything for granted and we understand how tough it will be.”

Featured image courtesy of Lewis Mitchell/FAW

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