GAME OF THE WEEK:
Bangor City 5-2 The New Saints
Well, where to begin. This game was outstanding from start to finish. Two teams that are expected to be challenging for the title this season, squaring off in the opening match of the season.
The match itself started at a high pace, and just 5 minutes were on the clock when Brayden Shaw headered Anderson Cayola’s cross beyond the hapless Paul Harrison to give Bangor the lead. However, just 10 minutes later, The New Saints equalised, after a precise free kick by Aeron Edwards led to Steve Saunders knocking the ball against the post, before the rebound fell to Connell Rawlinson, who duly dispatched the chance. Had TNS been hoping that goal would’ve led to them pushing on and being the better team from then on, they’d have been disappointed, as the Citizens managed to regain the lead just 2 minutes later, when Brayden Shaw’s cross was headed home by Gary Taylor-Fletcher. The New Saints tried to get back into it, and eventually found an equaliser, thanks to a rapid counter attack by Adrian Cieslewicz, who found Alex Fletcher, who’s shot was parried by Connor Roberts into the path of Jamie Mullan, who tapped in from close range to bring the Saints level once again. All this happened inside the opening 25 minutes of the match, and really set the tone for the rest of the half, as the two teams continued to fashion plenty of chances, but failing to score, as the first half ended 2-2.
The second half was a different story however, as The New Saints dominated possession from the off, with the Citizens unable to fashion a chance until the 60th minute, when Jon Routledge had a lapse in concentration and put the ball out for a Bangor City corner. The resulting corner found Anthony Miley, who’s header found Gary Taylor-Fletcher unmarked to head home. With Bangor ahead for the third time, and completely against the run of play in the second half, they began to grow in confidence while The New Saints found themselves stunned, and the reigning champions would be even more perplexed 15 minutes later when Bangor City record signing Brayden Shaw hit an extraordinary shot from 30 yards out that flew into the top corner. With the Citizens celebrating a 2 goal cushion for the first time on the night, the pressure was starting to become evident on The New Saints, who were desperately trying to find a way back into the game. However, it would go from bad to worse for TNS in the 81st minute, when a hopeful ball up the field from Tom Kennedy was miscontrolled by Steve Saunders, allowing Anderson Cayola to steal the ball. With Cayola heading into the box, Saunders cynically brought the Bolivian down, and the referee had no option but to point to the spot, booking the Saints defender in the process. With 9 minutes left, Cayola slotted home the penalty, becoming the first Bolivian to score in the Welsh Premier League, and ensuring the Citizens would be celebrating 3 points over the reigning champions on the opening night of the 2017/18 season.
Bala Town 3-0 Newtown
Bala Town got off to a winning start at Maes Tegid, beating a disappointing Newtown 3-0. On a wet and windy opening night, it took just over 25 minutes for Chris Venables to get his first of the season, beating the offside trap after being picked out by Jordan Evans, before finishing well past Newtown keeper Dave Jones. The Lakesiders needed only 2 minutes to add another, with Evan Horwood bending a fantastic free kick past the wall and into the back of the net. With Bala Town 2-0 up, they’d have to wait until the 67th minute to add a third, when Les Davies found Mike Hayes in the box, and the striker duly obliged to guarantee the three points for Bala. Newtown’s night got worse when, in stoppage time, Leon Clowes was given the first red card of the new Welsh Premier League season after receiving a second booking.
Prestatyn Town 0-4 Connah’s Quay Nomads
Newly promoted Prestatyn Town were handed a difficult opening match, having to take on a strong Connah’s Quay Nomads side that are expected to be title challengers this season. The Nomads dominated from the start, but were made to work for their opener, which came when Jay Owen slotted a Ryan Wignall cross into the back of the net in the 26th minute. Prestatyn had a chance of their own not long after, but Noah Edwards’ shot was well held by Danby. It remained 1-0 until the stroke of half time, when Callum Morris poked home after another Wignall cross caused problems for the Prestatyn keeper. After half time both sides started well, creating numerous chances, but neither team managing to score until the 61st minute, when Wilde made it 3-0 to the visitors after another fantastic Wignall cross. In the 87th minute, Connah’s Quay added their 4th of the match, when Matty Williams took advantage of a goalmouth scramble, to smash home from 7 yards.
Llandudno FC 3-0 Carmarthen Town
One of the most surprising results of the week happened at Maesdu Park as Llandudno beat last season’s Play-Off semi-finalists Carmarthen Town 3-0. After a very entertaining first half finished 0-0, the second half sprung into life when a Carmarthen handball led to Llandudno being awarded a penalty. Sam Hart duly dispatched. Then, in the 89th minute, new signing Shaun Cavanagh scored to put Llandudno 2-0 up. As the game approached full time, in the 94th minute, Cavanagh was fouled in the area, winning Llandudno their second penalty of the game. Sam Hart stepped up to score his second of the match, and to guarantee that Llandudno get off to a winning start!
Cefn Druids 0-3 Cardiff Met FC
Cardiff Met had a long way to travel for their opening game, but made the trip worthwile for their fans with a dominant display over Cefn Druids. It took the Students just 13 minutes to open the scoring, with Chris Baker smashing a powerful right footed shot into the bottom corner from the edge of the area. Baker was celebrating a second goal just 20 minutes later, when a long ball forward from defence found Jordan Lam, whose cross was cleared into Baker’s path, and he hammered another low right footed drive into the back of the net from an almost identical position as his first. Cardiff were the better team throughout, and added a well-deserved 3rd goal in the 76th minute, when Eliot Evans curled a free kick beyond a hapless Michael Jones and into the back of the net. With Cardiff Met looking comfortable, the Druids began losing their discipline, and in the 80th minute Stuart Cook received a red card after the referee showed him a second yellow for a reckless, mistimed tackle on Bradley Woolridge. A disappointing start to the new season for Cefn Druids, but a very promising start for Cardiff Met, who will be hoping to emulate last season’s fantastic results.
Barry Town United 1-1 Aberystwyth Town
This match was all about returns to the top flight, as Barry Town celebrated a long awaited return having last been in the league in 2004, and new Aberystwyth Town manager Neville Powell celebrated a return to the league for the first time since leaving Bangor City before the start of the 2016/17 season. The game was a lively contest, with both teams having numerous chances to open the scoring, before Barry launched a quick counter attack in the 27th minute that saw Kayne Mclaggon’s shot parried into the path of Ryan Newman to smash home Barry’s first goal in the top flight since Luke Sherbon’s strike against Port Talbot in May 2004. Aberystwyth responded well, and John Owen created great opportunities for Craig Hobson and Luke Borelli, but fantastic goalkeeping from Mike Lewis kept the Seasiders at bay. The second half started the same way as the first half ended, with Aberystwyth pressing for the equaliser. Aberystwyth had numerous chances in the second half, but went closest when Declan Carroll sent a fantastic half volley narrowly wide. The Seasiders would get the goal in the 82nd minute, when Declan Walker delivered a corner which was stopped on the line by Mike Lewis, before Jonny Spittle’s rebound was controversially adjudged to have crossed the line. John Owen almost scored moments later, but his first time volley flew wide, before referee Bryn Markham-Jones controversially waved away penalty shouts on the brink of the 90 minutes after Aberystwyth substitute Christian Langos went down from a Chris Hugh challenge.