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Welsh Premier League 2003-04

WELSH PREMIER LEAGUE 2003-04

Having ended the previous season in a best-ever Welsh Premier League placing of fifth our supporters might have hoped for a decent start to the 2003/4 campaign. Disappointingly, our opening game at the Deeside Stadium, against Porthmadog, ended in a 1-3 defeat with our prolific striker Tommy Mutton finding the net once again as all four goals came in a quarter of an hour. Barry Town's fall from grace was almost complete but our start to the new term was not helped when the first away game, at Barry, was postponed with the Dragons announcing debts in excess of £900,000.

Haverfordwest County recorded a first victory on Deeside (0-1) for ten years before Andy Griffiths' goal earned the team its first point in a 1-1 draw at Port Talbot where Tommy Mutton received two yellow cards and this after missing a penalty! That game was sandwiched by home defeats in the League Cup to TNS and to Rhyl in the FAW Premier Cup so the visit of Aberystwyth Town on 13th September 2003 was seen as a chance to put those losses behind us. Not so as the Black n' Greens scored four times without reply leaving the Nomads perilously close to the bottom of the league.

It's that sort of adversity that can bring out the best in players. We still had the nucleus of the side that had done so well during the previous season and in Mutton and Stuart Rain had two strikers of acknowledged pedigree. A first success arrived just a week later when a Gareth Owen goal was all we needed to take the points from Caersws and, as it turned out, that result was just the start of a run that saw us unbeaten in nine league games (five wins, four draws and 22 goals in the bag) up to mid-December.

Upon his return to the team following a one-match ban, Tommy Mutton added a late strike to a brace from Rain as Nomads romped home 3-0 against Caernarfon Town while another Owen goal at Belle Vue earned a 1-1 draw at the home of the team that were to become champions that season. Afan Lido were then put to the sword to the tune of 4-0 and another quartet of goals at Welshpool Town kept the team upwardly mobile.

The Welsh Cup began with a trip to Guilsfield where we had lost on our previous visit but an 8-1 win banished all thoughts of another upset. Stuart Rain had missed the vital kick in a penalty shoot-out four years earlier but made amends with a hat-trick this time. That earned us a trip to Anglesey to face an unknown quantity in Bodedern FC but two goals from Tommy Mutton were enough for Nomads to squeeze home 2-1. During the autumn of 2003 Tommy found the net in ten of 11 successive league and cup matches.

By early December we had moved into a comfortable mid-table position and welcomed Bangor City to the Stadium - always a clash that produced entertainment of one sort or another. Goalless at half-time the home fans were thrown into raptures when Rain and then Jon Kenworthy scored in a six-minute spell after the interval but as ever the Citizens fought back. Just after the hour mark Les Davies pulled a goal back, Craig Hutchinson extended the lead and with two minutes remaining Lee Hunt (another adversary of the Nomads) netted to ensure a tight finish but we held on to win 3-2 in front of almost 300 fans.

Christmas brought little cheer however when a 1-2 defeat at Newtown was followed by a 1-1 draw away to Porthmadog and a shock 0-1 defeat at home to NEWI Cefn Druids on Boxing Day - a team we had never previously lost to in a dozen league and cup encounters. Osian Jones' 85th minute strike was enough for the three points to disappear off to Cefn Mawr.

The New Year brought sadness with the news that Tommy (T.G.) Jones the famous Everton and Wales centre-half and founder of Connah's Quay Nomads FC had passed away at the age of 86. Thomas George Jones played 175 games for Everton winning the First Division in 1939 and earning 17 full international caps. He was still playing for the Goodison Park club when forming the Nomads (or Juniors as they were known initially) in 1946.

In the Welsh Premier League Nomads defeated Barry Town 4-1 and gained a 2-1 win at Haverfordwest to start 2004 off on the right note. There followed two astonishing matches, at home to Caersws and away to Caernarfon Town a fortnight later, in which 18 goals were scored, both Mutton and Rain grabbed hat-tricks yet we collected just one point!

The last day of January was extremely windy enabling Tommy Mutton to score his hat-trick before the break when Nomads, the breeze at their backs, led 3-0. The Bluebirds were quick to swoop back after the break and kicking towards the river Graham Evans scored twice. Nonetheless, despite a buffeting from the wind Andy Hughes kept his goal intact until the 85th minute but strikes from Venables, Lewis and Scott saw us go down 3-5. At the Oval in Caernarfon a fortnight later Stuart Rain scored four times in a 5-5 draw. Nomads never led at any time and were only level for the last eight minutes so it was definitely a point gained.

The remainder of the campaign was one of ups and downs with the odd victory coming along at just the right time to keep us in mid-table. The Welsh Cup adventure had ended with a 0-1 loss at home to TNS on the weekend between the two high-scoring games mentioned above. A 3-2 home victory over Cwmbran Town on May Day was enough to secure eighth place in the final table, albeit a long way behind champions Rhyl who lost just once all season (away to Haverfordwest County) but still only pipped TNS by a single point.

Stuart Rain's 20 league goals placed him fourth in the list led by Rhyl's Andy Moran with 27 while Tommy Mutton netted 17 and Gareth Owen a commendable nine from midfield. Mutton's goal 19 seconds after the start of the last match against Cwmbran was the fastest of the season in the Welsh Premier League.

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