11 weeks since Newtown beat Caernarfon Town in the 2020/21 JD Cymru Premier play-off final and the Welsh top flight league finally returns this weekend with a full set of fixtures.
The same 12 clubs will compete in the JD Cymru Premier this season as the tier 2 leagues were postponed last year, but there will be a slight change to the format.
Due to a drop in the coefficient scores, Wales have lost a spot in European competitions, therefore only three Cymru Premier clubs will qualify for Europe this season rather than the previous four.
The 2021/22 champions will play in the Champions League qualifiers, while the runners-up will join the Welsh Cup winners in the Europa Conference qualifiers.
This means that the play-off winners will not qualify for Europe this season, but instead will secure a place in the Scottish Challenge Cup alongside the league champions.
Friday, 13 August
Cefn Druids v Connah’s Quay | Friday – 19:45
Cefn Druids’ new manager Niall McGuinness is preparing for his baptism of fire as his league campaign begins with a battle against the champions, Connah’s Quay.
The Nomads secured back-to-back championships on the final day of last season with a 2-0 win away at Pen-y-bont.
The Druids on the other hand, finished at the opposite end of the table after a challenging year where assistant manager Jayson Starkey was forced to take charge after Bruno Lopes got stuck in Portugal due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Connah’s Quay have won five of their last six meetings with the Ancients, and despite losing key figures over the summer transfer window, the Deeside outfit will be expected to have enough to see off the new-look Druids.
The Nomads won 2-0 against Llandudno last weekend in the Nathaniel MG Cup second round, while Cefn Druids lost 3-0 to second tier side Prestatyn.
Saturday, 14 August
Aberystwyth Town v Barry Town United | Saturday – 14:30
Both Aberystwyth Town and Barry Town United fizzled away towards the end of last season and will therefore be determined to get off to a strong start to the new campaign.
Barry Town United got off to a flyer, winning five from six last season, but eventually dropped down to 5th place, losing out to Caernarfon Town in the play-off semi-final, while Aberystwyth Town finished 10th with their lowest point tally since 2011/12.
Barry Town United have a remarkable record against Aberystwyth Town – they are unbeaten in all 10 meetings since their promotion in 2017, winning each of the last eight games between the two sides.
The Dragons claimed a resounding 5-0 victory against Llanelli in the Nathaniel MG Cup last Saturday, while Aberystwyth were also celebrating following their penalty shoot-out triumph over Pen-y-bont.
Cardiff Met v Flint Town United | Saturday – 14:30
Flint Town United ended last season’s campaign with a 2-1 defeat at Cardiff Met, and the Silkmen will be seeking revenge as they make the same trip to the capital on the opening weekend of the new season.
Neil Gibson has been a busy man over the summer bringing in more of the old Prestatyn troupe to Flint with Michael Parker and Jack Kenny the latest of the 2019/20 JD Cymru North winning side to arrive at Cae-y-Castell.
But in addition to the usual suspects, Gibson has secured the signature of last season’s Player of the Year, with experienced frontman Michael Wilde making the unexpected move from Connah’s Quay to Flint Town United.
Cardiff Met won three of their four meetings with Flint Town United last season, but both clubs will be eager to get off the mark quickly to avoid another long year towards the lower end of the league.
The students had no trouble in seeing off Ammanford in the cup last Friday (4-0), while Flint Town United were cruelly knocked out on penalties by Bala Town.
Bala Town v Pen-y-bont | Saturday – 14:30
For the second consecutive year, Bala Town finished 3rd behind Connah’s Quay and The New Saints in 2020/21.
Colin Caton’s men were 14 points clear of 4th side Pen-y-bont, but were 17 points adrift of 2nd place The New Saints, and with one less spot in Europe up for grabs this season, there is added incentive to close the gap on the top two.
The experience of David Edwards and Paul Rutherford could prove vital to the Lakesiders after both midfielders arrived at Maes Tegid from Shrewsbury and Wrexham this summer.
The head-to-head stats are looking favourable for Bala Town as they have won each of their last six meetings with Pen-y-bont, scoring an average of 3.8 goals per game.
These two sides had contrasting emotions following a penalty shoot-out in the Nathaniel MG Cup last weekend with Bala Town beating Flint Town United, while Pen-y-bont lost to Aberystwyth Town.
Caernarfon Town v Haverfordwest County | Saturday – 17:15 (S4C)
It’s been 11 weeks since Caernarfon Town lost 5-3 against Newtown in the 2020/21 play-off final, and the Cofis will return to the Oval for their opening league fixture against Haverfordwest County this Saturday.
Huw Griffiths has given his squad an almost complete makeover with big names such as Gareth Edwards, Michael Parker, Paulo Mendes, Joe Williams, Jack Kenny, Nathan Craig, Telor Williams and Josh Tibbetts all departing over the summer.
The Canaries manager has replaced his outgoings with the signings of ex-professionals, Dion Donohue and Steve Evans, as well as making exciting additions such as Robert Hughes, Daniel Gosset and 18-year-old shot-stopper Jakub Ojrzyński on loan from Liverpool.
Haverfordwest County have also bolstered their ranks over the summer with Henry Jones, Dylan Rees and Lee Idzi amongst the new faces to arrive at Bridge Meadow.
Surprisingly, Haverfordwest County are unbeaten in their last 16 meetings with Caernarfon Town, but the Cofi Army will be in high spirits on Saturday and will ensure they do everything they can to bring the run to its end.
Both teams won 3-0 in the Nathaniel MG Cup last weekend – Caernarfon Town easing past Ruthin Town, while Haverfordwest County knocked out Goytre United.
Sunday, 15 August
Newtown v The New Saints | Sunday – 14:30
This fixture was moved to Sunday as The New Saints were still flying the flag for Wales in Europe on Thursday night against Czech giants, Viktoria Plzen.
After winning the 2020/21 play-offs, Newtown had a tough time in the Europa Conference League, losing 5-0 on aggregate to a strong Dundalk outfit this summer.
The New Saints ended last season empty handed for the second year running, but Anthony Limbrick will be determined to get his hands on some silverware in his first full season at the helm.
The Robins have failed to win any of their last 12 home meetings against The New Saints, since Boxing Day of 2013.
Aaron Williams netted an impressive four goals in Newtown’s victory against Cambrian & Clydach last weekend, while The New Saints fielded a young side against Penrhyncoch and were beaten 2-1 by the mid-Wales club.
Highlights of the weekend’s matches will be on Sgorio this Monday at 5:30.