WELSH PREMIER FOOTBALL

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WITH six successive Welsh Premier titles in the bag, The New Saints are likely to be in seventh heaven come the end of April.

Bala Town and Connah's Quay failed to fulfil many pundits' predictions of mounting a serious challenge last season but, with the Nomads and Bangor City moving towards full-time status, TNS are unlikely to repeat their 27-point margin of success this time around.

Despite defeat at the hands of the Lakesiders in the Welsh Cup final and the departure of manager Craig Harrison to Hartlepool, the Saints still have a settled, full-time squad that will prove too strong for the rest.

Expect Bangor City to provide the strongest challenge with Connah's Quay claiming the third automatic European place.

Aberystwyth TownGeoff KellawayAberystwyth Town 100/1
Narrowly avoided relegation last season and will hope for improvement under new manager Nev Powell. With Daniel Alfie and Luke Sherbon significant departures, there have been several new signings but, on paper, a top six spot still looks out of reach for the men from Park Avenue.
SIGNINGS Declan Carroll, Scott Coughlan, Joe Culshaw, Craig Hobson, Christian Langos, John McKenna, Joe Phillips, Jonny Spittle, Declan Walker, Ashley Young
DEPARTURES Daniel Alfie, Jamie Crowther, Dylan Rees, Sam Rodon, Elliott Scotcher, Luke Sherbon
MANAGER Nev Powell LAST SEASON 10th PREDICTION 10th
FIRST FIXTURES: Barry Town United (A), Llandudno FC (H)


Bala TownChris VenablesBala Town 9/1
Dropped a place to third last season and long-serving duo Mark Connolly and Mark Jones have departed, along with the influential Kieran Smith and marksman Lee Hunt. The Lakesiders have added players, notably experienced defender Evan Horwood, frontman Les Davies and crafty midfielder Glenn Rule. They will certainly be challenging for another Europa League appearance, but may have to surrender hopes of second or third place this time around.
SIGNINGS Les Davies, Evan Horwood, Lee Hunt, Andrai Jones, Glenn Rule
DEPARTURES Mark Connolly, Mark Jones, Kieran Smith
MANAGER Colin Caton LAST SEASON 3rd PREDICTION 4th
FIRST FIXTURES: Newtown AFC (A), Cardiff Met (A)


Bangor CityBrayden ShawBangor City 20/1
Despite having three managers last season, the Citizens still qualified for Europe and have assembled a strong squad for the new campaign. Last season's star man Henry Jones has gone to AFC Fylde, but the arrival of Brayden Shaw from Accrington for a club record fee and Danny Holmes from York City will be more than adequate compensation for City fans.
SIGNINGS Anderson Cayola, George Harry, Sam Henry, Steve Hewitt, Danny Holmes, Tom Kennedy. Brayden Shaw, Luke Wall
DEPARTURES Yalany Baio, Shaun Cavanagh, Henry Jones, Sergio Uyi, Pavel Vieira
MANAGER Kevin Nicholson LAST SEASON 4th PREDICTION 2nd
FIRST FIXTURES: The New Saints (H), Cardiff Met (A)


Barry Town UnitedRyan NewmanBarry Town United 50/1
Ended 13 years of exile from the top flight with a comprehensive Welsh League title win and have retained many of last season's squad along with some interesting additions, Manager Gavin Chesterfield is a shrewd operator and the Dragons should survive with ease, but top six looks out of reach at the first time of asking with the current squad.
SIGNINGS Clayton Green, Sam Jones, Kayne McLaggan, Ryan Newman, Elliott Scotcher
DEPARTURES Lee Baldock, Michael Hartley
MANAGER Gavin Chesterfield LAST SEASON - N/A PREDICTION 7th
FIRST FIXTURES: Aberystwyth Town (H), Prestatyn Town (A)


Haverfordwest CountyBradley WoolridgeCardiff Met 66/1
Impressed in their first Welsh Premier campaign and came within 90 minutes of European qualification. The students can only be strengthened by the signing of former Hereford captain Joel Edwards and ex-Swansea City youngster Dylan Rees and will surely be in contention for a top six place once again.
SIGNINGS Joel Edwards, Dylan Rees
DEPARTURES Liam Black, John Littlemore, Isaac Philpot
MANAGER Dr Wayne Allison LAST SEASON 6th PREDICTION 5th
FIRST FIXTURES: Cefn Druids (A), Bangor City (H)


Carmarthen TownLee SurmanCarmarthen Town 100/1
A fifth-placed finish last season was better than some pundits predicted thanks to a big improvement in the Old Gold's away form. Three summer departures will be missed, especially striker Mark Jones, and the squad now appears weaker than last season. With the first six games to be played on the road, team spirit will be key if Town are to reach the top six again.
SIGNINGS Tyler Brock, Scott Delaney, Kostya Georgievsky, Liam Walsh, Kyle Williams
DEPARTURES Kyle Bassett, Declan Carroll, Mark Jones
MANAGER Mark Aizlewood LAST SEASON 5th PREDICTION 6th
FIRST FIXTURES: Llandudno (A), Connah's Quay Nomads (A)


Cefn DruidsAshley RuaneCefn Druids 200/1
The surprise package of Phase 2 last season, the Druids defied the odds and easily avoided relegation. Opening fixtures against the two clubs that finished just above them will be a good guide to the Ancients' prospects, but another fight against the drop could well be on the cards.
SIGNINGS Neil Ashton, Lewis Buckley, Ben Burrows, James Davies, Ilan ap Gareth, Alec Mudimu, Arek Piskorski
DEPARTURES Steve Blenkinsop, Rakim Newton, Gareth Partridge, Max Penk, Jake Phillips
MANAGER Huw Griffiths LAST SEASON 8th PREDICTION 11th
FIRST FIXTURES: Cardiff Met (H), Newtown AFC (A)


Gap Connah's QuayKai EdwardsConnah's Quay Nomads 25/1
Have gone from strength to strength under Andy Morrison backed by substantial investment from the owner and achieved a best-ever finish last term, as well as recording an excellent home victory over tough opposition in Europe. Have started a transition to full-time status and should go well again, but may be pipped to the post for runners-up spot by Bangor City.
SIGNINGS Mathias Bakare, Michael Bakare, Andreas Bianga, Joe Heath, Jake Phillips, Ryan Williams
DEPARTURES Wes Baynes, Les Davies, John Disney, Tom Field, Shelton Payne, Nick Rushton, Lewis Short
MANAGER Andy Morrison LAST SEASON 2nd PREDICTION 3rd
FIRST FIXTURES: Prestatyn Town (A), Carmarthen Town (H)


LlandudnoMarc WilliamsLlandudno FC 66/1
The Seasiders failed to build on their excellent first season in the top flight as they struggled to score goals with the league's lowest total of 31 and never looked likely to challenge for a play-off place again. Some key players have left Maesdu Park and, while a couple of the incomers are useful, Llandudno are unlikely to challenge for a top six place.
SIGNINGS Shaun Cavanagh, Ryan J Edwards, Sam Ilesanmi, Toby Jones, Jake Phillips
DEPARTURES Lewis Buckley, Jamal Crawford, Liam Dawson, Gareth Evans, Jamie Reed, Leo Riley, Dean Seager
MANAGER Alan Morgan LAST SEASON 9th PREDICTION 9th
FIRST FIXTURES: Carmarthen Town (H), Aberystwyth Town (A)


Newtown AFCJay DennyNewtown AFC 40/1
Big changes at Latham Park have seen a raft of players come and go and the Robins will find it difficult to replace Jason Oswell's goals now the striker has gone to Stockport County. Jay Denny looks a good replacement for inspirational skipper Shane Sutton and a challenge for the play-offs is on the cards.
SIGNINGS Iwan Cartwright, Leon Clowes, Jay Denny, Jojo Harries, Sam Litchfield, James Murphy, Jamie Reed, Nick Rushton
DEPARTURES Gavin Cadwallader, Stef Edwards, Andy Jones, Joe Newton, Jason Oswell, Ross Stephens, Shane Sutton, Jordan Wells
MANAGER Chris Hughes LAST SEASON 7th PREDICTION 8th
FIRST FIXTURES: Bala Town (H), Cefn Druids (A)


Prestatyn TownMike ParkerPrestatyn Town 200/1
Romped to the Huws Gray Alliance title to secure a return to the Welsh Premier, but relied heavily on the 27 goals from the league's top scorer Jordan Davies, who has left Bastion Gardens. New signings have been thin on the ground as Neil Gibson relies mainly on last season's squad to make an impact and a tough campaign could lie ahead.
SIGNINGS Zebb Edwards, Zyaac Edwards
DEPARTURES Jordan Davies
MANAGER Neil Gibson LAST SEASON N/A PREDICTION 12th
FIRST FIXTURES: Connah's Quay Nomads (H), Barry Town United (H)


The New SaintsRyan BrobbelThe New Saints 1/5
The margin of victory is unlikely to be as huge as it was last season, but the Saints will still romp to a seventh consecutive title. Manager Craig Harrison may have left, but continuity has always been a key ingredient of the success at Park Hall and the appointment of Scott Ruscoe and Steve Evans ensures that is maintained. Throw in full time status and substantial Champions League cash and TNS have a massive advantage over the rest to assert their monopoly.
SIGNINGS Blaine Hudson
DEPARTURES Phil Baker, Jacob Farleigh (loan), Aron Hughes-Jones (loan), James Jones, Mihai Leca, Tom Matthews, Andy Wycherley (loan)
MANAGER Scott Ruscoe LAST SEASON 1st PREDICTION 1st
FIRST FIXTURES: Bangor City (A), Bala Town (H)

* Betting odds from Corbett Sports.

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24 August 2017

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