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Saturday 24th February 2018 ko 14.00

Welsh Premier League


THE NEW SAINTS 1 (Routledge 45) Harrison sent off (offensive/insulting language and/or gestures)

Att 222

Entry £7

Programme £2

Teamsheet FREE

You’d think the Flintshire Suspension Bridge marks the border between Wales and England; it doesn’t but it comes pretty close! It’s Britain’s only assymetrical suspension bridge, but suffers by being nicknamed, “The bridge to nowhere,” that’s rather disparaging to the good people of Connah’s Quay and Shotton but the feeling of being on the periphery persisted.

Perhaps it was being in borderlands, but I found myself imagining the Nomads in an English context. They’ve never played anywhere else than in the Welsh pyramid, but I found myself wondering how a ground like the Deeside Stadium would fit into an English context. Would it fit in the National League North, or would the Northern Premier League’s Premier Division be more appropriate? By that measure I suspect that the team is of a higher quality than their home.

On one hand the Deeside Stadium is very much an athletics stadium, and as such there is no view from behind either goal. It never ceases to remind me of a stadium that used to host a Welsh club in it’s pre-Football League days- Newport’s Spytty Park albeit with less adaptation for football. On one hand it’s more than adequate for Welsh Premier football, but it’s a long way from being what any football fan would regard as ideal.

The club were lovely hosts. Noone expected to be invited into hospitality at half time, and apart from the hot drinks and biscuits the chance to warm up from the first hours of a cold snap. The stadium exceeded my memories of it, the curves of the stand’s roof do complement the straight lines of the bridge and the power station rather pleasingly.

The game explored another facet of life on the periphery, that of full-time versus part-time. The New Saints are the league’s only full-time club, owner Mike Harris’s business plan seemly to get the club into European football each and every season as a means of financing it. Nevertheless any player full-time at this level knows that if they fail, they’ll be unlikely to get another full-time contract elsewhere. On the other hand if a part-time player has the ambition to go full-time he’s in the right league do it.

You saw it in sharp focus here. TNS may have won 6 consecutive WPL titles and will probably win a seventh, but the difference between the two sides was minimal. Led by the glowering presence of former Manchester City defender Andy Morrison, Nomads are a team created in his own image, favouring strength and power over finesse.

TNS for all their domestic dominance struggled to deal with their hosts, to the extent that at the end of it all, if you could have played the game twice more you could have easily got the other two results! A defensive error saw Jon Routledge score the only goal of the game but it took a Gordon Banks-esque save from TNS keeper Paul Harrison to preserve his sides lead. He departed the scene soon after, a bout of verbals at the referee earning him first use of the shower.

It was a game to study rather than to enthuse about. It showed the Welsh version of Celtic doing a similar job to their fellow green and white cousins in Scotland winning, sometimes ugly, but still winning. It is the lot, it seems, of a top league of any small country – one team tends to dominate. Their toughest task of course will be to keep the Welsh flag flying in Europe for a long as possible.

As for Connah’s Quay I headed for Bala with their reputation higher in my mind than than when I’d walked in 2 hours earlier. You really can’t ask for more can you?