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Welsh Premier League 2005-06

WELSH PREMIER LEAGUE 2005-06

Neville Powell was rewarded for his twelve years of service as Nomads' manager with a testimonial against a strong Tranmere Rovers side during the close season. A midfield player with the club until injury on the first day of the 1996/97 campaign ended his playing career Neville consistently had his teams playing with spirit and determination. Following the start Nomads endured to 2005/2006 plenty more of both of those qualities was needed to avoid relegation.

The bare statistics show that the teamís first eleven games in the Welsh Premier League (sponsored by Vauxhall MasterFit) brought a grand total of two points from a possible 33. A goalless draw at Port Talbot Town and a point from a visit to Porthmadog (2-2) thanks to a late Craig Hutchinson equaliser were the only bright spots.

The season had begun with a long trip to Haverfordwest. On the eve of the game a telephone call to the club secretary Bobby Hunter advised that the usual coach company could not provide a vehicle. A frantic few hours followed as arrangements were made for the team and backroom staff to travel by cars to the ground furthest from Deeside. Bank Holiday traffic in Carmarthen led to the kick-off having to be put back and a couple of players who should have been substitutes had to start the game instead. County won 2-0 but the second goal didn't arrive until the 89th minute. If we thought that things could only get better after such a start then we were sadly mistaken.

A 0-2 home defeat at the hands of Newtown followed and then a 2-4 loss at Caernarfon Town. One of our goals was scored by Stuart Rain, making his 300th start in the WPL, and the other from Gary Reay - his only goal for Nomads. A late Chris Williams penalty at Welshpool Town was our only consolation in a 1-4 defeat that left us rock bottom of the league without a point. By then TNS were way out in front and, as luck would have it, our next opponents. A battling effort saw the Nomads keep the score down to 0-2 before that first point arrived at Port Talbot in the next game.

Even a goalless draw can bring hope during times of adversity and as our next two league fixtures were against Bangor City and Caersws, the teams immediately above us and in a similar predicament, that hope of improved fortunes sprang eternal. Yet we lost both games 0-1 and followed up with a similar score at home to Carmarthen Town. By now Neville Powell was searching for new blood and several possible signings had been identified. Phil Molyneux scored his first goal for Nomads in the 2-2 draw at Porthmadog on 12th November. At least that brought to an end our search for a league goal that had stretched to an embarrassing 519 minutes.

Gary Pinch made his debut at Porthmadog as did Martin Robinson, a striker from Irish club Crusaders, at Cwmbran a week later. Just seven minutes into that game Robinson unleashed a 25-yard free-kick into the back of The Crows' net and could have had a hat-trick had not Cwmbran goalkeeper Gareth Wesson kept his side in the game. It almost goes without saying that despite Nomads' reinvigoration the home side took the points with a goal in each half. The afternoon of 25th November 2005 was as gloomy as the atmosphere around the stadium for a local derby with Airbus UK yet with further new signings Gary O'Toole, Alan Morgan and Conall Murtagh in the side it was not beyond the realms of possibility that a couple of good results could reshape our season and so it was to prove.

Despite playing as a central defender, Gary Pinch scored twice against Airbus either side of O'Toole's first goal for the club just before the break to earn the most welcome of victories. A week later an early goal for Aberystwyth Town from Glyndwr Hughes was cancelled out in the 73rd minute by Phil Molyneux and our luck turned when Chris Williams netted a disputed penalty with virtually the last kick of the game at Park Avenue. NEWI Cefn Druids were defeated at the Stadium by another Martin Robinson goal which took Connahís Quay off the bottom of the table at Druidsí expense. Then, just a week before Christmas, a trip to play Cardiff Grange Harlequins for the first time resulted in a fourth successive victory as goals from Murtagh, Rain and a Molyneux brace brought a 4-1 success.

A dozen points from those four fixtures turned Nomads' season despite losing both Christmas fixtures against high-flying Rhyl. Lee Hunt scored the only goal of the Boxing Day clash and netted again as Rhyl turned a half-time deficit, courtesy of Ryan Crawford's 4th minute strike, into victory when Tommy Mutton of all people scored The Lilywhites' winner in the final quarter of an hour.

Conall Murtagh earned us a point against Haverfordwest County at the start of the New Year and then scored the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Caernarfon Town which took us into three games against the top three sides. At Llanelli we were beaten 0-2 and then welcomed Welshpool Town to the Deeside. Having failed to score in just one game all season and with a defence that had not conceded a goal for 350 minutes, they were deservedly second in the league though a long way behind TNS. A week earlier Tommy Mutton had returned to Nomads following a brief stay at Belle Vue and to our delight he netted both goals in a fine 2-0 success against Welshpool.

We now found ourselves in a run of five games with an alternate 2-0 scoreline, a loss at TNS being followed by a win away to Bangor City thanks to an own goal and a penalty before Porthmadog's Jason Sadler netted both his side's goals here at the Stadium on 17th March. Two goals in three minutes earned us a 2-2 home draw with Cwmbran Town. The match programme highlighted the fact that Nomads had used 32 players in just 24 league games and despite an upturn in playing standards we were still too close to the lower reaches of the league table for comfort.

By the start of April Connah's Quay had slipped back into the bottom three places following a 0-1 defeat at the hands of Port Talbot Town. Gary O'Toole was featured on the cover of the match programme for the visit of Aberystwyth Town and it was his second half goal that separated the sides. Drawn games at Newtown (1-1) and NEWI Cefn Druids (2-2) followed with our former player Darren Williams typically grabbing Druids' equaliser, leaving us with three games to play - at home to already relegated Cardiff Grange Harlequins and second from top Llanelli and away to Carmarthen Town. We needed to beat the Harlequins but they gave us a very difficult game before it was settled right on half-time by Phil Molyneux. That result ensured that Nomads retained their cherished membership of the WPL since the competition had begun in 1992.

Llanelli came north having won 15 and drawn four of their previous 20 league matches but on a memorable evening another Molyneux goal in the 36th minute gave Nomads the points and ended the most difficult of seasons at the Stadium on a high. A 1-1 draw at Carmarthen four days later saw Phil Molyneux take his goal tally to nine for the season as Nomads climbed to a finishing position of 12th thanks to a second half of the term that produced six wins and six draws. We now had to gather ourselves for a year away from the Deeside Stadium while the pitch was relaid and looked forward to games just four miles away at Flint's Cae-Y-Castell ground on the banks of the River Dee.

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