WPL 2017/18 PREVIEW: Bala Town FC
CAN THE LAKESIDERS CHALLENGE FOR THE TITLE?
Last season was a very successful one for Bala Town, who enjoyed the success of winning the Welsh Cup, stopping rivals TNS from winning the ‘triple treble’ in the process. It was a great comeback performance that left the crowd at the Bangor University Stadium stunned. If they could battle back against the only full-time team in Welsh domestic football and beat them to a major trophy, then why can’t they aim higher? That is why many are tipping them to challenge for the title this season.
Last season’s team has only got stronger too, with Welsh Premier League veterans Les Davies and Glenn Rule both joining from Connah’s Quay Nomads and Airbus UK respectively. They have also signed forward Andrai Jones, midfielder Eddie Toner and veteran EFL defender Evan Horwood.
The Lakesiders have sold a number of players too, with Mark Connolly and Kieran Smith among those departing Maes Tegid. Kieran Smith, the forward who scored the dramatic Welsh Cup winning goal for the Lakesides last season, has joined Tasman United in New Zealand, where he will play with former Bala player Rob Pearson, before returning to Bala for the 2018/19 season. Meanwhile, midfielder Mark Connolly joined Rhyl FC following the termination of his contract by mutual consent, bringing an end to his seven-year association with the Lakesiders. Young goalkeeper Ryan Goldston has left the club for Ruthin, and veteran midfielder Mark Jones has also departed.
Finishing in the top 3 for the third consecutive season last season has shown that the Lakesiders have what it takes to consistently challenge near the top, and with the taste of Welsh Cup success still in their minds from last season, they should be ones to watch in a title race that many agree will be closely fought this season.
In Colin Caton, they have a fine manager who has masterminded Bala Town’s meteoric rise since taking over in 2003, with many believing he is responsible for the most successful period in Bala Town’s history, taking them from the Cymru Alliance into the Welsh Premier League as champions of the 2008/09 season, and from a mid-table WPL side into consistent European qualifiers. Never one to shy away from hard work, Caton is instrumental to Bala, continuously pushing the club forward, and he will be hoping that his side can finally provide a challenge to The New Saints at the top of the table.
Following the disappointment of their Europa League exit at the hands of FC Vaduz, they will be looking to bounce back and prove they deserve to be counted among the best teams in the division this season. Having taken part in an interesting pre-season, where they have faced many different sides of varying quality, Bala will be hoping to hit the ground running this season.
Les Davies-Connah’s Quay Nomads
Glenn Rule-Airbus UK
Kieran Smith-Tasman United
Mark Connolly-Rhyl FC
‘Bala Town celebrating their Welsh Cup success last season’
Photo Credit: Bala Town FC
Photo available from: http://www.balatownfc.co.uk/calendar/welsh-cup-2017-18/