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Season review: Wales

Published: Wednesday 12 June 2013, 10.29CET
The record books were rewritten as The New Saints FC won the Welsh Premier League title by 22 points and Prestatyn Town FC celebrated the first cup triumph in their 103-year history.
by Trevor Haylett
Season review: Wales
TNS will get another crack at the UEFA Champions League, having lost to Helsingborg last term ©AFP/Getty Images
Published: Wednesday 12 June 2013, 10.29CET

Season review: Wales

The record books were rewritten as The New Saints FC won the Welsh Premier League title by 22 points and Prestatyn Town FC celebrated the first cup triumph in their 103-year history.

The New Saints FC were the dominant force once again in the Welsh Premier League, creating one record and equalling another as they won the title for a seventh time. They could not make it a double double, however, as Prestatyn Town FC took proud possession of the Welsh Cup for the first time in their 103-year history. It earned Prestatyn a first stab at European competition, likewise league runners-up Airbus UK Broughton FC, while Bala Town FC, who finished seventh in the 12-team division and came through three play-off rounds to take the final continental berth.

Champions: The New Saints FC
TNS took their sixth title in nine seasons thanks to a magnificent second half of the campaign. A 3-0 victory over Carmarthen Town FC made sure they retained the championship with four matches still to play. Bangor City FC and Prestatyn threatened to mount a strong challenge early on, but after a surprise 3-0 home defeat by Carmarthen on 24 November, the Oswestry club were unbeaten. They won 15 of their last 17 games, including 11 in succession at one stage. TNS are level on seven crowns with Barry Town FC.

Cup final: Prestatyn Town FC 3-1 Bangor City FC (aet)
Prestatyn's surprise early challenge for the league faded into a fifth-place finish, yet compensation came in the form of this victory over Bangor in Wrexham. Former Swansea City AFC striker Jason Price scored early on to put Prestatyn in charge but Bangor, who missed a penalty, hit back to force extra time through Chris Simm. Bangor had Michael Johnston dismissed in the first additional period, and their opponents took advantage with goals from Andy Parkinson and Price again.

European places
The New Saints FC – UEFA Champions League second qualifying round
Prestatyn Town FC – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
Airbus UK Broughton FC – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round
Bala Town FC – UEFA Europa League first qualifying round

*subject to final confirmation from UEFA

Player of the Year: Michael Wilde (The New Saints FC)
The 30-year-old rounded off a marvellous season by receiving two honours at the annual awards evening: player of the year and golden boot winner. Wilde, who returned to the Park Hall club last June after three years away, scored 25 league goals, two of them coming in the title-clinching 3-0 triumph over Carmarthen on 30 March.

One to watch: Ryan Fraughan (The New Saints FC)
The Saints winger helped make it a clean sweep for his club in the Welsh League Annual Awards – head coach Carl Darlington was also named manager of the year – by receiving the young player of the season accolade. His hard-working displays, allied to a goalscoring return of seven goals from 28 league appearances, mark out the 22-year-old as a player with a successful career ahead of him.

Surprise package: Prestatyn Town FC
Airbus and Bala also made strong claims for this category as they clinched maiden places in European competition. However, Prestatyn deserve to be lauded after competing impressively at the head of the table for the first half of the season before finishing with a flourish to lift the Welsh Cup. Under player-manager Neil Gibson, the north Wales outfit have made significant strides since taking their place in the Premier League in 2008.

Leading scorer: Michael Wilde, The New Saints FC (25)

Relegated: Llanelli AFC*

Promoted: Rhyl FC

*Afan Lido FC finished bottom but Llanelli exit the league after being wound up.

Number: 22
Points TNS finished ahead of runners-up Airbus, the biggest winning margin since the Welsh Premier League began in 1992.

Quote
"The standard [of the Welsh Premier League] is definitely different to when I left. I do see a massive improvement and the 12 teams competing have helped the league. The competition for the top spots has really intensified."
Player of the year Wilde salutes the changes made to the competition in recent years.

Last updated: 12/06/13 10.30CET

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