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The League of Wales 1998-99

THE LEAGUE OF WALES 1998-99

Following more than half a century of playing football on the famous sloping pitch behind the Halfway House pub, The Nomads moved a few hundred yards along the road to a new stadium at the start of the Club's seventh season in the League of Wales. After a handful of pre-season friendly matches, our first competitive opponents were Rhayader Town on Saturday 29th August 1998 - 18 years ago this weekend. On a beautiful afternoon a Jamie Hughes hat-trick and a 30-yarder from Andy Thomas ensured The Nomads began life at the Deeside Stadium with a comfortable 4-1 victory. That result, sandwiched between away wins at Rhyl and Bangor, put The Nomads top of the league for the first time ever!

Unfortunately our stay at the top was short-lived courtesy of a 3-0 home loss to Barry Town followed by a 6-2 trouncing at Carmarthen a week later. The latter game has lived long in the memory as 'one of those days'. Skipper Carl Smyth was taken ill during the game and Barry Thomas sent off and we never recovered from the loss of both central defenders. Tabletoppers Aberystwyth Town were the next visitors to Deeside and The Nomads regained some stability with a hard-fought goalless draw before taking a point off both Afan Lido (H) and Inter CableTel (A) in the next two league games.

August sunshine gave way to autumn rain resulting in the postponement of our home league clash with Cwmbran Town on 24th October. Signs of drainage problems had come to light a week earlier during the FAW Premier Cup match against Inter CableTel when the pitch cut up badly. The Nomads reached the last day of October having gone eleven league and cup games without a win but a 3-1 success at Conwy United and a draw at Caernarfon Town kept the side in the top six, albeit trailing leaders Barry Town by a dozen points.

By virtue of finishing seventh in the previous season, we had qualified for a place in the group stages of the FAW Premier Cup, playing four games up to mid-October as well as two League Cup matches with TNS Llansantffraid. The draw for the third round of the Welsh Cup paired us with Newtown, the game ending 2-2, but thanks to a solitary Jamie Hughes strike in the replay three days later his fifth goal in four games - The Nomads progressed.

At Christmas 1998 all the talk was of the playing surface at the new stadium. The inability of the drainage system to cope with anything more than minimal rainfall was causing consternation for all concerned. Embarrassed officials were at a loss to find an answer although digging up the whole pitch already appeared to be the only solution. The players hardly knew when or where their next game would be. After playing Afan Lido on 3rd October Nomads' next 'home' league fixture was staged 112 days later on 23rd January - and at Belle Vue, Rhyl! By now, The Nomads had slipped to 13th in the league but with as many as five games in hand on some teams. Another disappointing aspect was the fall in attendances after such a bright start to the campaign. Our first six league and cup games at the Deeside Stadium brought in almost 2,500 spectators with an average gate of 412. But without a game at the new ground between November and February, the fans simply had to find their entertainment elsewhere. Furthermore, we produced 28 matchday programmes during the whole season yet played only 22 home games. Thanks to all the postponements much paper, not to mention words of wisdom, went to waste!

On the field of play, matters improved somewhat in February 1999. A 3-1 win at Afan Lido preceded a Welsh Cup game away to Barry Town. Much had been made of the semi-final victory over The Dragons at the back end of the previous season but in the local press The Nomads were given little chance of a repeat performance. Spirits were lifted by the resigning of 'old boy' Dave O'Gorman on the eve of the cup-tie, Dave having been a full-time professional with Barry Town and then in the Football League with Swansea City following his first spell with Connah's Quay. O'Gorman wasn't available for the match at Jenner Park but The Nomads had the perfect start when Stuart Rain netted after eight minutes. Before the interval Jamie Hughes was shown his second yellow card of the game but we held on to record a famous victory.

In keeping with the whole season, the side then went another six games in league and cup without a win including a Welsh Cup quarter-final replay loss away to Inter CableTel. Towards the end of March the team had slipped into the bottom four only a single point away from the relegation places but a 3-1 win over Haverfordwest County and then a 4-2 success against bottom side Holywell Town eased relegation fears. O'Gorman had returned to the side against Cwmbran Town and scored the goal in a 2-1 defeat but six further appearances up to the beginning of April failed to bring him another goal.

Drier weather in the early spring had rendered the Deeside Stadium pitch rutted and bumpy and ball control was difficult. Home supporters were unfairly getting on the players' backs and the general atmosphere was one of discontent. Reaching the Welsh Cup final twelve months earlier and then playing at a new stadium had raised everyone's hopes but the weather had played a large part in the club's unhappy season.

In order to complete the league programme before the end of April 1999, The Nomads had to play 13 league matches in the space of 40 days, a tall order for semi-professionals several of whom were shift workers. Admittedly nine of those games were at home but that meant struggling on a playing surface that hardly resembled a bowling green. Nevertheless, a Dave O'Gorman hat-trick helped the side to a 6-2 win against Rhyl, a Steve Futcher goal was enough to beat Cwmbran Town and the season culminated with a 3-2 success against Newtown - the sixth time the two sides had met during the season in three different competitions.

Both goalkeeper Phil Collister and right back Andy Thomas featured in all 32 league games, the latter playing in every one of the team's 46 league and cup matches while Jamie Hughes bagged 24 goals in his 41 appearances. Those late victories pushed Nomads up to 12th place in the final league table with 38 points and a goal difference of only minus three - a creditable return for such a season of struggle against both the opposition and the elements.

Click here to see the final league table

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