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The League of Wales 2000-01

THE LEAGUE OF WALES 2000-01

The summer of 2000 was, in general, dull and damp and football fans had little to excite them during the European Championships as British involvement was minimal. Our League of Wales season began with a trip down to Mid Wales to oppose Rhayader Town and the day became something of a portent for the campaign ahead. The team arrived late following traffic delays in Newtown and were caught cold when the home side scored an early goal. Fortunately Stuart Rain came up with an equaliser to make the homeward journey a little more boisterous than it might have been.

The following Sunday we entertained Bangor City in what was Nomads' 300th game in the league since its inception eight years earlier. Neville Powell was at pains to point out in his programme notes that Connah's Quay had finished the highest of the six North Wales teams the previous season and this on a tight budget. On the other hand Bangor City had won the Welsh Cup! Another 1-1 draw ensued but the Citizen's 90th-minute goal was scored by former Nomad Jamie Hughes to add to our frustration. Belle Vue, Rhyl was our next port of call where, in an entertaining game Nomads came back from 3-2 down to win thanks to late strikes from Steve Futcher and Jon Kenworthy and this after having been reduced to ten men with the dismissal of Steve Hopkins.

A single goal home loss to Barry Town was countered a week later by a 2-1 success away to Llanelli and then a goalless draw with Haverfordwest County. We went into that game in third place just four points behind league leaders Cwmbran Town and surprise-package Oswestry Town, the latter eventually slipping to finish fourth from bottom. While all this was going on in the league, Nomads were involved in both the FAW Premier Cup and the Gilbert League Cup. As both competitions featured mini-leagues we had played 12 games by the start of October when the Welsh Cup began.

Participation in the FAW Premier Cup, as a result of finishing 7th in the league in the previous season, was a bonus but the draw for the group stage soon brought us down to earth. We found ourselves pitted against Barry Town, TNS and Swansea City and lost all six games despite going 2-0 up during the early stages of the first game against Swansea. The group stage ran right through until February 2001 when we had to travel to Llanelli's ground to face a strong Swansea City side on a wet Thursday night. That we lost only 1-0 in front of almost 1,700 fans failed to make the occasion memorable.

Early autumn league matches at Carmarthen Town and at home to Caersws both ended in 3-0 defeats and the inability to win at home was causing concern. The only successes at the Deeside Stadium had been in two cup games the second of which as against Gresford Athletic in the Welsh Cup and earned us a tilt at Maesteg Park in the third round. Despite having slipped out of the League of Wales six years earlier, Maesteg came to Deeside and won 2-1.

There was a hint of desperation in the matchday programme notes for the visit of Oswestry Town on 2nd December 2000. We had suffered more postponed matches during another wet autumn and had failed to score at home in the league since August. Oswestry were already moving down the league after a bright start but two goals were all they needed to collect the three points. Our next game away to TNS yielded nothing but then a 2-1 win at Cefn Druids brightened the mood prior to Christmas. Aberystwyth Town were our Boxing Day visitors and a glance at the league table proved that had our home form matched that 'on the road' then Nomads would occupy a place in the league's top four. Aber won 2-1 but at least Nomads scored.

A trip to Farrar Road on Friday 5th January 2001 brought us a very pleasing 1-0 win with Stuart Rain netting his eighth goal of the campaign to leave Bangor second from bottom with just two wins from 14 games. Nomads, on the other hand, climbed to 11th position although 17 of our 19 league points had been gathered from our away fixtures. A home win arrived at last on 27th January at the expense of Llanelli (2-1) when our goals were scored by Carl Smyth and George Horan who was playing only his fourth game for the club.

We had managed to squeeze through into the knockout stages of the Gilbert League Cup and faced a trip to the old Park Hall ground, home of Oswestry Town in the quarter-final. We expected to win but didn't, going down 2-0 to end our interest in cup competitions for another season. Nomads enjoyed 75% possession on a soggy pitch but the home side scored with their only real attack of the first-half. The evening became misty and cold and the playing surface ever more treacherous but still we couldn't find the net and a second goal for the team in blue did for Nomads.

As it transpired the loss at Oswestry was a turning point in our season. The next weekend Nomads entertained third placed Carmarthen Town, a team we had lost to in seven of the previous eight meetings. A 2-1 victory (goals from Andy Griffiths and John-Paul Stanhope) was secured which heralded the start of a 15 game run-in to the end of the season of which we were to lose only three.

Early spring witnessed the Nomads going six games without defeat gaining victories over Port Talbot Athletic (away) and UWIC Inter Cardiff in addition to the win against Carmarthen Town and picking up points from games with Caersws, Newtown and Afan Lido. The month of March ended with a surprise 3-1 home defeat at the hands of Port Talbot who had slipped below us in the league following our win at their ground only three weeks before. Easter week brought us further victories over Cefn Druids and Oswestry Town (a satisfying 3-1 win at Park Hall) and a creditable 1-1 draw at Aberystwyth in front of a crowd in excess of 500.

A 2-1 defeat at Cwmbran Town was followed by a re-arranged game at home to the same team a week later. The Crows were occupying second place in the league table, six points behind Barry Town but with a game in hand and 16 points ahead of Newtown in third place. As if that wasn't enough of a challenge for the Nomads, we were obliged to entertain Afan Lido the following day, a Sunday.

In the event Connah's Quay won both games by 1-0; Andy Griffiths netting the winner against Cwmbran and Paul Mazzarella doubling his total for the season 24 hours later against Lido. We still had to play two more home games during the first week of May, losing 1-2 against TNS but finishing with a flourish against Rhayader Town. We should have entertained Rhayader on 30th December but the rain had turned the pitch into a morass. Instead the team took the field on an early summer evening and romped to a 5-nil win to register our 50th point of the campaign and a finishing position of ninth. The late surge helped to gloss over the disappointments of the first two thirds of a season that has been largely forgotten.

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