The new JD Cymru Premier season is upon us, and as Colwyn Bay prepare for their debut in the top-flight and with Barry Town United returning following a year of absence, it promises to be one of the most exciting seasons in recent years.
Friday, 11 August
Haverfordwest County v Pontypridd United | Friday – 19:45
It’s been a summer to remember for everyone involved with Haverfordwest County who were competing in Europe for the first time in 19 years after finishing 7th and winning the 2022/23 JD Cymru Premier play-offs.
The Bluebirds caused quite the upset in Europe as they knocked out KF Shkëndija of North Macedonia, before falling to a narrow defeat to Faroese outfit, B36 Tórshavn in the second qualifying round of the Europa Conference League.
Despite finishing last season in the Bottom Six, Haverfordwest County were the only one of Wales’ four representatives to secure a win in Europe this summer.
The European exploits will certainly boost the squad’s confidence who will be targeting a Top Six finish this year, and another shot at Europe.
Pontypridd United will have been more than happy with their 8th place finish in their first season in the JD Cymru Premier, and after consolidating themselves in the league, Ponty could well be setting their sights on the Top Six as well this year.
Pontypridd United flirted above the relegation zone for long spells of the season but ended the campaign strongly, losing only once in 10 games after the split (vs Haverfordwest County).
And overall, it was Ponty who got the better of the four contests between these sides last season, winning twice, drawing once, before losing the final meeting at Bridge Meadow in April (Hav 2-0 Pont).
The New Saints v Connah’s Quay | Friday – 19:45
Less than four months ago, The New Saints beat Connah’s Quay 4-1 on the final day of the JD Cymru Premier season before lifting the league trophy for the 15th time in their history.
TNS finished 22 points clear of Connah’s Quay, which was the biggest margin between 1st and 2nd since 2016/17, which was the season that the Saints broke the world record for most consecutive victories.
These clubs also went head-to-head last weekend in the Nathaniel MG Cup second round, and Craig Harrison will have been thrilled to win 2-1 after losing his first game back as TNS manager last year in the same round of the same competition against the same opponents.
Since that loss on penalties in August 2022, the Saints have gone on a run of five games without defeat against their main rivals, Connah’s Quay (won three, drawn two).
It was a disappointing summer for both these teams as they failed to win any of their European rounds or matches, which has contributed to Wales losing their fourth spot in Europe for the 2025/26 season.
Both teams will be hoping for a better start to the campaign than last year as they failed to win their opening fixtures with Connah’s Quay losing at Cardiff Met while TNS drew 0-0 with Newtown.
But the Saints haven’t lost their opening league fixture since August 2017 when they fell to a 5-2 defeat in a frantic encounter at Bangor City.
Saturday, 12 August
Aberystwyth Town v Cardiff Met | Saturday – 14:30
Aberystwyth Town came incredibly close to being relegated from the JD Cymru Premier for the first time ever, but a dramatic late comeback against Caernarfon Town on the final weekend of the season has kept the Black & Greens in the league for another year.
It was a different story for Cardiff Met who secured their highest finish since their promotion in 2016 (4th), but the Archers lost on penalties in the play-offs and missed out on a European adventure.
Last Saturday, both Aberystwyth Town and Cardiff Met enjoyed a positive start to the season with victories over Barry Town United and Taffs Well respectively in the Nathaniel MG Cup.
Cardiff Met are unbeaten in their last five meetings with Aberystwyth Town (won four, drawn one), and the students haven’t lost at Park Avenue since 2019.
Bala Town v Barry Town United | Saturday – 14:30
Following a year of absence, Barry Town United are back among the big guns after winning the JD Cymru South by a 16-point margin.
But it hasn’t been a smooth summer for the Dragons as Lee Kendall decided to leave his managerial role just two weeks ahead of the opening match of the season.
Steve Jenkins has been chosen as his replacement, and with experience of coaching at Merthyr Town, Hereford, Barnet and most recently with Cardiff u18’s, it looks to be an interesting appointment.
Jenkins was in the stands last Saturday to watch Barry Town lose to Aberystwyth Town in the Nathaniel MG Cup but will take charge for the first time at Bala Town this weekend.
Bala Town had the perfect start to their campaign with an emphatic 4-0 away win at Ruthin Town as the holders began their defence of the Nathaniel MG Cup.
This will be the first meeting between these sides since October 2021 when it ended 3-3 at Maes Tegid with Lassana Mendes netting twice for Bala in the first half before Kayne McLaggon repeated the feat for the Dragons in the second half.
Barry Town United haven’t beaten the Lakesiders since the memorable 6-2 thrashing at Jenner Park in March 2021 where McLaggon scored another brace.
April 2019 was the last time Barry won away at Maes Tegid, which was yet another crazy clash that finished Bala 2-5 Barry, and yes, Kayne McLaggon did of course score twice!
Newtown v Pen-y-bont | Saturday – 14:30
Expectations will have risen for these two clubs following a busy summer of signings that have bolstered both squads.
The 2016/17 Welsh Premier League Player of the Year, Jason Oswell has returned to Newtown, six years since leaving Latham Park.
30-year-old, Oswell scored 22 league goals for the Robins during the 2016/17 which secured him the Golden Boot, and he went on to represent Stockport, Morecambe, Wrexham, and Telford in the English system.
Pen-y-bont’s new no.9 has five Golden Boots to his name, and Chris Venables’ experience will be vital if the club want to continue to climb the table.
Pen-y-bont claimed their highest ever finish last season (3rd), earning a ticket to Europe for the first time in their history.
38-year-old, Venables scored on his debut against FC Santa Coloma, but Pen-y-bont lost on aggregate against the Andorran outfit.
Newtown and Pen-y-bont will have been frustrated to lose on penalties against second tier sides last week and will be looking to bounce back on Saturday.
Europe will be the goal again for these two teams, and Pen-y-bont may have the psychological advantage ahead of this contest as they won all four of their meetings with Newtown last season.
Sunday, 13 August
Colwyn Bay v Caernarfon Town | Sunday – 17:15 (S4C)
After years in the English football pyramid, and three seasons in the JD Cymru North, Colwyn Bay are braced for their debut in the JD Cymru Premier.
The Seagulls went on a run of 25 consecutive victories on their way to the JD Cymru North championship but were pushed all the way by runners-up Holywell Town.
Bay manager, Steve Evans is more than familiar with the JD Cymru Premier having won the league on seven occasions as a player for The New Saints, before becoming the assistant-manager at Park Hall.
Steve Evans played 14 matches and scored one goal for Caernarfon Town at the beginning of the 2021/22 season before his appointment as Colwyn Bay boss in January 2022.
Caernarfon Town will be eager to return to the Top Six after failing to make the cut last season for the first time since their promotion in 2018.
The Cofis finished just four points above the relegation zone and manager Richard Davies has moved quickly to add the threats of Adam Davies and Marc Williams to the squad to strengthen his attacking options.
Colwyn Bay’s introduction will be a boost to the league as they attracted an average attendance of 720 to their home games last season, which was substantially higher than Caernarfon Town’s average of 478.
But there was 812 at the Oval last Friday to witness the Canaries’ defeat to Porthmadog on penalties, while 512 went to watch Colwyn Bay win 5-0 against Airbus UK.
This will be the first league meeting between the two sides in over 30 years when the clubs were members of the Northern Premier League Division One in 1991/92.
It should be a fantastic spectacle between two of north Wales’ most popular clubs, and an historic occasion as we welcome Colwyn Bay into the nation’s highest tier of football.
All goals can be viewed on Sgorio’s online accounts, and all the weekend’s highlights will be on Sgorio on Monday night at 9:30 on S4C.