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Season review: Wales

Published: Thursday 10 May 2012, 18.02CET
The New Saints FC regained their status as the dominant force in Welsh football by winning the league and cup, achieving the double for the first time since 2005.
by Trevor Haylett
Season review: Wales
TNS huddle up for the cameras after victory in the Welsh Cup final ©UEFA.com
Published: Thursday 10 May 2012, 18.02CET

Season review: Wales

The New Saints FC regained their status as the dominant force in Welsh football by winning the league and cup, achieving the double for the first time since 2005.

It proved a stylish return to form for The New Saints FC, who completed the double for the first time since 2005. Their league success was particularly impressive, the Oswestry club sealing the title on the final day of the season with an emphatic victory against closest pursuers Bangor City FC.

Champions: The New Saints FC
TNS won the Welsh Premier League in style, beating last year's champions Bangor 5-0 as the pair went head to head on a dramatic last day of the campaign. TNS began the season by taking one point from their first two games but a run in which they dropped only two in their subsequent 11 matches put them firmly back on track.

For the start of the second-phase Championship Conference, Craig Harrison was installed alongside head coach Carl Darlington and it proved a winning formula. Bangor could still have retained their crown had they turned the tables at Park Hall but a hat-trick from the prolific Greg Draper ensured the issue was never in doubt.

Cup final: The New Saints FC 2-0 Cefn Druids AFC
TNS made it a double triumph with success in the Welsh Cup against second-tier Cefn Druids, who had knocked out three Premier League sides on their way to the final. Two goals inside the first 15 minutes, from Draper and Alex Darlington, put the Oswestry outfit in charge, although their opponents, Wales' oldest team, more than held their own thereafter. It was TNS' first cup triumph since 2005.

European places*
The New Saints FC – UEFA Champions League, second qualifying round
Cefn Druids AFC – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
Bangor City FC – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round
Play-Off winners – UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round

*Subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the Year: Greg Draper (The New Saints FC)
Although he missed out on the Golden Boot award (an honour that went to Llanelli AFC's Rhys Griffiths for the seventh season running), Draper is a strong contender for the official award as his goals helped TNS carry all before them. The Somerset-born striker, in his first season at Park Hall, helped New Zealand qualify for the Olympic Games and looks certain to be selected for the summer sporting extravaganza.

One to watch: Alex Samuel (Aberystwyth Town FC)
Samuel became one of the youngest Aberystwyth players to feature in the Welsh Premier League when he made his debut in October, two weeks after his 16th birthday. The midfielder has attracted the attention of English Premier League clubs and enhanced his reputation with goals for the Wales Under-18 semi-professional and schoolboys teams.

Surprise package: Bala Town FC
The northern outfit punched above their weight in securing a finishing position of fifth and a place in the play-offs for the final UEFA Europa League berth. In only their third season in the top flight Colin Caton's charges began strongly with an away draw against TNS followed by five successive wins. Thereafter they never looked back, their work ethic yielding 14 wins and seven draws from 32 league fixtures.

Leading scorer: Rhys Griffiths, Llanelli AFC (24)

Relegated: Neath FC

Promoted: Gap Connah's Quay FC

Number: 17
The goal difference achieved by TNS in winning the Welsh Cup. They scored 17 times in their five fixtures – and conceded none.

Quote
"I'm just glad that we didn't win the treble because where do you go from there?"
TNS director of football Craig Harrison, who only took charge in December, reflects that 'only' securing the league and cup was probably enough in his first season at the club.

Last updated: 10/07/12 16.13CET

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