The twelve Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League clubs enter the Welsh Cup on Saturday as Round 3 takes centre-stage throughout the Principality.
With matches as far North as Holyhead, South as Barry, East as Monmouth and a bus from Haverfordwest leaving for their game in the West to Llandudno Junction, not forgetting Newtown in the middle, the competition touches all corners of Wales tomorrow.
But it is on the Cambrian coast where S4/C will have their live television cameras as Aberystwyth Town boss Tomi Morgan, who has been involved in this great competition annually for over the last twenty years, pits his wits against Greg Strong’s Rhyl. Strong has already enjoyed cup upsets in his stint as Lilywhites boss with wins over Welsh Premier League sides in the last two seasons. They beat the now defunct Neath two years ago and Newtown last year and it’s no coincidence that the broadcaster has chosen this match, where Strong will be hoping to make it a hat trick of Cup shocks against top-flight opposition. He will be without his first choice ‘keeper Alex Ramsay though, as the on-loan TNS stopper is not permitted to play in the Cup, but the acquisition of midfielder Mark Cadwallader from Airbus will strengthen the Lilywhites. Aberystwyth Town still have Michael Walsh and Sean Thornton as long-term casualties, whilst veteran Glyndwr Hughes is also a concern.
Cup previews also look at the proverbial ‘banana skin’ and this is no different and last year’s Runners-Up Cefn Druids are certainly in that bracket as they travel to Welsh Premier side Newtown. The Robins have not won a Welsh Cup match since November 2007, having been dumped out at this stage in the last three seasons by Holyhead, Bridgend and last year Rhyl, so Bernie McNally will be hoping to avenge that unwelcome statistic. The Druids on the other hand were a great success story of last year as their run to the Final, which included wins over three top-flight clubs, saw them bank over £100,000 through FAW Prize Money and the European campaign that followed.
Other difficult trips include Carmarthen Town’s to Holyhead Hotspur, for whom Mel McGuiness is the dangerman and Bala Town’s visit to Monmouth Town. The hosts have potent strikers in ex-Carmarthen duo Nick Harrhy and Dan McDonald, whilst ex-Llanelli assistant Steve Jenkins has been helping his local club with information on the Lakesiders this week. The last three years have seen highs and lows for Colin Caton’s side in this Competition with two highs of reaching the Semi-Finals as well as the low of losing to UWIC two years ago.
There will definitely be three Welsh Premier League clubs eliminated at this stage, as Afan Lido host Prestatyn Town, Scott Young takes his Port Talbot Town side away for the first time to Airbus, which was the scene of his predecessors final game and Gap Connahs Quay host 2011 Champions Llanelli.
Chepstow Town are the lowest ranked side left in the competition and the Level 4 club from Welsh League 3 travel all the way to Anglesey to play Gwalchmai of the Welsh Alliance. It’s a one-way trip of 247 miles for the minnows and the beauty of the Cup is that Ely Rangers have just a 4.3 mile trip from their Wenvoe headquarters to Barry Town’s Jenner Park. Gavin Chesterfield’s men have enjoyed an excellent season on the pitch to date and will be favourites, but Rangers have natural goalscorers in their squad with Richard Greaves, Jordan Cotterill and Luke Tresize as well as new addition Gianluca Palladino. Another all-Welsh League affair sees Pontardawe Town and Goytre (Gwent) battle it out, which will be a close affair.
There are three matches where Welsh Alliance League sides play host to Welsh League representatives, with Holywell Town hosting Caerau Ely, Llanrug Utd hosting West End and Llandudno Junction welcoming Haverfordwest County.
The final two games involve the Welsh Premier League’s top two who host Level 2 sides, as TNS face Conwy Borough and Bangor City welcome Aberdare Town. Although, both games should be competitive, the pedigree of the Welsh Premier duo in this competition in recent years suggests that they should be home wins.
The Welsh Cup is the third oldest competition in World Football, having been played over 126 seasons, so if there is a game near you, get out and support your local side who will be hoping to write their own piece of Welsh Cup History.