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Season review: Wales

Published: Wednesday 5 May 2010, 9.47CET
The New Saints FC held off the challenge of Llanelli AFC to finish top of the pile and also picked up the League Cup while knockout specialists Bangor City FC won their third straight Welsh Cup.
by Trevor Haylett
Season review: Wales
Andy Cale has stepped down at TNS after a success-laden season ©The New Saints FC
Published: Wednesday 5 May 2010, 9.47CET

Season review: Wales

The New Saints FC held off the challenge of Llanelli AFC to finish top of the pile and also picked up the League Cup while knockout specialists Bangor City FC won their third straight Welsh Cup.

The New Saints FC led the way in the Welsh Premier League's final season as an 18-club organisation, winning both the title and the League Cup. For head coach Andy Cale, it proved a fitting time to step down and his assistant Mike Davies will take charge next season. Streamlined to 12 clubs next season, Caersws FC drop out and they could be joined by fellow founder members Haverfordwest County AFC, Newtown AFC, Connah's Quay Nomads FC and Porthmadog FC.

Champions: The New Saints FC
The New Saints FC were forced to wait until the final day of the season to seal their fifth championship of the new century after Llanelli AFC mounted a determined late charge. Fixture congestion meant that Llanelli had to play eight games in the last 20 days and by winning all three fixtures in the final week they compelled TNS to win their last game away to Aberystwyth Town FC which they duly did, 3-1. It left TNS champions for the fifth time, adding to their triumphs in 2000, 2005, 2006, and 2007.

Cup final: Bangor City FC 3-2 Port Talbot Town FC
Bangor won the Welsh Cup for the third year in succession after Dave Morley scored a 90th-minute header to quell Talbot's stirring fightback. Bangor, who have now won 18 Welsh Cup ties in succession, had forged a 2-0 lead inside 16 minutes through Lee Hunt and Jamie Reed. Back came the Steelmen with Drew Fahiya and Liam McCreesh on the scoresheet as they threatened to take a thrilling contest into extra time.

European places*
The New Saints FC – UEFA Champions League, second qualifying round
Bangor City FC – UEFA Europa League, second qualifying round
Llanelli AFC – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
Port Talbot Town FC – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the Year: Steve Evans (The New Saints FC)
Considering his last senior Welsh cap had come as recently as 2008, it is quite a coup for TNS to be able to parade the defensive talents of Steve Evans and the captain's no-nonsense displays were a major reason for their success in lifting two trophies (defeating Rhyl FC 3-1 to land the League Cup) and an unbeaten run of 14 league games to finish the season (12 wins and 2 draws).

One to watch: Scott Barrow (Port Talbot Town FC)
Scott Barrow has enjoyed a superb campaign with Port Talbot and earned 12 votes from rival managers to feature in the Welsh Premier League team of the season while also being nominated for the young player of the season. The 21-year-old left-sided midfielder joined the Steelmen in August 2006 after attending the Swansea City FC centre of excellence.

Surprise package: Airbus UK FC
The competition was intense this year with the league due to reduce in size to 12 clubs, so the achievement of Airbus in finishing seventh, immediately behind Rhyl FC, who were champions 12 months before, can not be underestimated. Manager Craig Harrison has worked wonders on a limited budget, guiding his team to a run of only three league defeats between November and the end of February while off the field the club is thriving. Their ground in Broughton is now rated one of the best in the league.

Leading scorer: Rhys Griffiths, Llanelli AFC (30)

Promoted: none

Relegated: Rhyl FC, Connah's Quay Nomads FC, Porthmadog FC, Welshpool Town FC, Caersws FC, Cefn Druids AFC

Number: 13
Goals conceded by The New Saints FC in their 34 league games – a new defensive record for the Welsh Premier League, beating their own previous low mark of 17 set in 2005/06.

Quote
"TNS are full time and I was finding it difficult to put in the time it needed. I'd have hated it if we weren't successful and I'd feel like I'd let them down." Andy Cale explains why he stepped down as head coach shortly after they clinched the league title.

Last updated: 01/06/10 19.18CET

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