The 2019/20 season has kicked off in tier 2 for the South Wales sides following a huge brand change. instead of being called Welsh Division 1, it has adopted a less vague title – JD Cymru South. And there was no better way to kick off the new season under a new name.
Afan Lido v Undy Athletic
Cambrian & Clydach v Llantwit Major
Cwmbran Celtic v Swansea University
Haverfordwest County v Caraeu Ely
STM Sports v Cwmamman United
Taffs Well v Ammanford
Goytre United v Briton Ferry Llansawell
Llanelli Town v Pontypridd Town
Where to start? How about at Rhiw’r Ddar where Taffs Well took on Ammanford. After a relegation scare last season the Wellmen have a tough job on their hands avoiding it this year given the quality of the competition. Following the conclusion of last season Taffs Well had the time to strengthen their squad, staff and ambitions, and so they did.
The Black and White Army were their opponents. Ammanford had a successful season last season, not just avoiding relegation but finishing in a strong 9th position. Their enthusiastic fan-base has high expectations this year.
So with two confident sides locking horns, this was to be an opening day eye catcher. Would it be the rejuvenated Wellmen or the hungry army that came out on top? As it was, the hosts scored 3 opening goals to take 3 opening day points.
Taffs well actually took a formidable 3 – 0 lead. Keeping one of their star men last season Ricky Martin on the bench will be a regret for the visitors given that he came on and grabbed a consolation. This clash ended 3 – 1 to the Wellmen.
Afan Lido played host to Undy Athletic at the Marstons following the breakout season of their young star Noah Daley. The two sides finished at opposite ends of the standings last season with Lido finishing 4th in what will be regarded as a successful campaign, while Undy got a disappointing 18th place finish. The gap in points last season may have been huge, but the gap in quality this season is all but invisible. An early goal and a solid defense secured a very good 1 – 0 victory away at Lido on the opening day.
Haverfordwest County will surely be targeting the WPL after their race for promotion was spoiled by the Penybont party last season. They opened their season at home to the newly promoted Caerau Ely. The Welsh League division 2 (Now Division 1) was perhaps at its toughest last season with its unpredictable promotion race. With 9 teams still in the race in the final few weeks, promotion from the division would take a strong minded, ruthless team. And after being relegated previous to that, Ely had every intention of getting back up, which they did – even if it was on the final day.
But a trip to the title chasers on your first day back in this division is not exactly what you’d desire. This was shown in the 5 – 0 thrashing they had endured. A brace from Marcus Griffiths and Tom Dyson, with the addition of a Miles John goal saw the blues off to a soaring start. For Caerau Ely, it was never going to be an easy start. Where do they go from here?
Cwmbran Celtic had launched a great campaign last season sticking in the top 4 for a large majority of it. Their 10th place finish may seem a disappointment but mid table was a respectable place to finish in this tough division. Swansea University will be confident going into this season given their 2 promotions in as many years. They finished 2nd comfortably in League 2, or what is now League 1, last season. For both sides it is hard to say where they’ll end up this season, but it is safe to say both will be aiming high.
Nothing was a certainty in terms of the result, but what was certain was that everyone would be interested to see what Marley Bishop-Wisdom could do in this division after a brilliant individual season last year.
Celtic had a few stars of their own; Two incredible attacking signings saw Cwmbran have one of the most intriguing transfer windows in the summer. 20 year old Tom Neville, who scored 23 goals for Trethomas Bluebirds last season was one of them and is surely one to look out for. But joining him was their other signing Zak Osbourne. These two will be looking to light up the division. Osbourne, arriving from local rivals Croesyceiliog, scored 17 in a brilliant season in division 2 last season. It was Neville who opened is account and the scoring for Celtic on the weekend. But a late equalizer from Elliot Jones saw the New boys come away with a good point.
A big local derby kicked off the season for Goytre United and Briton Ferry. On a rainy Friday Night, with talk over the game potentially being postponed, both were hoping to defeat their local rival. Ferry and Goytre both had a decent 2018/19 season finishing in the top half and not far apart. Both will be looking for progress this season, but the focus was on their opener… and it was a big one. In local derbies, not only are points on the line, but pride is. This gave each extra incentive to begin with a win. The hosts were the side to prevail on a drenched pitch with Lee John grabbing the winner in a 2 – 1 victory.
The highlight of last season for Cambrian and Clydach was the 3 WPL scalps they pulled off consecutively in an impressive Nathaniel MG Cup run. It consisted of wins over Newtown, Aberystwyth and the Welsh Champions, TNS. In the final they were unfortunate to be defeated by Cardiff Met. But that runners up place overshadowed the impressive runners up place they secured in the league, finishing above the mighty Haverfordwest. For many they are seen as title challengers. But their first encounter of the new season would anything but easy. They came up against a strong Llantwit Major.
The Cam army, giving a competitive debut to 16 year old Dewi Abbruzzese, came away from their fortress with a 2 – 1 victory.
While the local Neath derby was being fought out, the other Friday night opening clash took place at Steboneath, where Llanelli Town, relegated from the WPL, hosted Pontypridd Town. After a tricky season in the WPL the reds were whisked straight down to tier 2 with every hope of returning. But Ponty had a certain Luke Gullick playing who was largely influential in helping his side retain a place in the league last season. He would open the scoring in the clash and put the visitors into a surprise lead. But reds debutante, Tim Parker would cancel his goal out before half time. Any attempt of taking home 3 points for one of the title favorites was halted when James Loveridge was sent off in the second half. And so the game ended 1 – 1. Ponty will certainty be pleased with that result to start their campaign. But you have to say its not the start Llenelli would have wanted considering their ambitions this season. The match ended 1 – 1.
Finally STM Sports, WFL Division 2 winners of 2018/19 hosted Cwmamman United. Who would know what to expect in this one? Cwmamman had an excellent season last year, finishing 6th above many quality sides. But a visit to last season’s team to fear was definitely not the preferred opener. Usually a start against a newly promoted side is something to be relieved about but the fact that it would have been the opposite feeling for the Cwmamman side really says something about the quality of this STM side. The new boys came away with what was surely the result of the weekend: a 3 – 1 victory. Unlike most other divisions, the teams that come up to this league are sides that seem to be in no place to be relegated. But STM might just be the scariest newcomers in recent history, and all eyes are turned to see what they can do in this division…
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