WELSH PREMIER FOOTBALL

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The Afan Lido Stadium is situated in Aberavon, less than a mile away from fierce rivals Port Talbot Town.

Afan LidoShortly after the opening of the Lido Sports Centre in Aberavon, director of football Phil Robinson, part of the Centre's management team, saw the need to organise the many who came to the centre regularly in order to play football. In June 1967, he formed them into a club that gained admittance into the local Port Talbot and District League for season 1967/8. This club was Afan Lido FC.
A move upwards came in 1971/2 when the club was accepted into the Welsh Football League. Two seasons later, Lido earned promotion into the First Division and after another two-year spell, gained promotion to the Premier Division and the second tier in the Welsh system. After finishing third in their first season at this level, there followed a barren spell that saw the club drop back a division before bouncing back in 1984/5. By this time the league had been reorganized and a higher National Division formed, to which Lido gained promotion in 1989/0 after finishing third. The two previous seasons had actually seen them win the Premier Division championship but failed to reach the ground criteria for promotion set by the League.
The formation of the League of Wales provided the next step for the club and their application to join was successful, being invited to become founder members for the inaugural 1992-93 season. A healthy mid-table position was achieved in this first season, finishing 12th overall. However, success in the League Cup, beating Caersws on penalties provided a superb end to the season. This was not the club’s first major cup success; in 1986/7 Lido had won the Welsh Intermediate Cup beating Taffs Well 1-0 in a replay at Briton Ferry.
Lido's cup exploits continued in 1993/4. In a thrilling final at Aberystwyth, they beat a rampant Bangor City side that had just clinched the League title. The narrow 1-0 win was enough to make people take notice and help fans forget a disappointing League campaign.
The club transformed matters and, narrowly avoided relegation, finishing 18th. At the start of the following season however, things changed at the club. A stronger defence was in place with a decidedly scrooge-like attitude to giving goals away. A consistency matched only by the eventual champions saw them finish in second place and earn a UEFA Cup spot.
From the inception of the League of Wales, Europe was only a dream and its realisation was a just reward for the hard work put in by a tightly knit management committee.
Defeat in the UEFA Cup at the hands of RAF Riga of Latvia was a bitter pill to swallow especially as the vital goal was scored on home soil. It was a taste of things to come though, and they were relegated at the end of the same season. Following Mark Robinson’s appointment as general manager and David Dale as chairman, two seasons of consolidation and ground improvements followed, culminating in promotion back into the League of Wales at the end of the 1997/8 season. Here, consolidation was again the aim, achieved in the first season back, in season 1999/0 Lido firmly established themselves as members of Wales’ Premier League. Finishing tenth, Lido narrowly missed qualification for the lucrative BBC-FAW Premier Cup, and lost in the semi-final of the Welsh Cup.
In season 2000/1 Lido were disappointed to finish 11th, and once again failed to qualify for the Premier Cup, and the aim in the following season was to finish in the top eight, and hopefully push for a European spot in the League and Welsh Cup.
Season 2001/2 saw two unusual sequences. From 3 November Lido won nine consecutive home matches before a 0-0 draw with Flexsys Cefn Druids ended that run. While away from home Lido lost nine consecutive matches from 27 October before winning 3-0 at Oswestry on 16 March. A strong finish in the league saw them going to Flexsys Cefn Druids on the last day of the season needing to win and hope that Caersws would lose at Connah’s Quay to allow a fourth place finish and once again compete in Europe. However it wasn’t to be, Lido did their bit with a 2-1 win but unfortunately Caersws also won 2-1 and finished fourth by virtue of having a better goal difference. However the target of qualifying for the FAW Premier cup was achieved.
Season 2002/3 saw Lido again qualify for the Premier Cup, although their league position worsened to seventh.
Form slumped in 2003/4 to a finishing position of 14th but worse was to come in 2004/5. Already flirting with relegation, Lido were deducted three points for playing defender Leigh Shrimpton against Airbus when he was still serving a Sunday League suspension. Lido claimed to be unaware of the ban, but failed to overturn the deduction on appeal and finished bottom of the league.
The first season back in the Welsh League saw Mark Robinson move 'upstairs' mid-way through the campaign, with former player Phil Holmes taking over. There was never any threat of the club returning to the Welsh Premier at the first attempt as they finished mid-table.
But, after several seasons in the second tier they eventually returned by dint of finishing runners-up to Bryntirion Athletic in 2011 and gaining the all-important FAW domestic licence.
Lido defied the pundits by comfortably avoiding relegation in their first season back in the top flight and then went on the lift the League Cup for the third time in their history. But manager Andy Dyer resigned just days after the cup triumph to be replaced by Paul Reid.
Lido struggled throughout the following season and finished bottom, avoiding relegation only because Llanelli dropped out of the league and there was no qualified applicant from the Welsh League to take their place.
The following season was even worse. The playing budget was cut early in the season and, after winning just three games, Lido dropped out of the top flight again.

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18 October 2017

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