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Welsh Premier League 2006-07

WELSH PREMIER LEAGUE 2006-07

Following the traumas of the previous campaign, Nomads began 2006/2007 in different surroundings - at Cae-Y-Castell, the home of our Huws Gray Cymru Alliance neighbours Flint Town United. After several years of postponed games at the Deeside Stadium courtesy of a poor drainage system, the pitch there was dug up and the problems solved. Playing all your home games at a neutral ground can have a detrimental effect upon a team but that fact seems to have escaped the Nomads who were to enjoy their best-ever season in the Welsh Premier League.

Apart from a 0-4 defeat at the hands of The New Saints, Connah's Quay did not lose another league match until the last weekend in October when Welshpool Town were our visitors. Up to then we had accrued 18 points (five wins and three draws) from nine league games and sat in fourth place only four points behind the leaders, TNS. Three goals in seven first-half minutes from The Lilywhites burst our bubble, but it was to be another five games before we lost again in the league, also to a team nicknamed The Lilywhites - Rhyl, who gained a 2-1 victory over us at Belle Vue on Boxing Day to go top of the league.

While disappointment at Christmas was hardly unusual for Connah's Quay Nomads, as previous seasonal reviews have proved, the first half of the 2006/2007 season had given plenty of cause for optimism. Indeed, there was talk of the team gaining a place in European competition for the first time. Having managed to escape relegation the previous year, Neville Powell set about adding some quality players to his squad. In came the likes of Adam Dickinson, full-back Dave Swanick and two former Everton players in Craig Garside and Christian Seargeant.

Despite the loss at Rhyl, Nomads went into the New Year in fifth position in the Welsh Premier League. It was a sign of the team's all-round improvement that two squad members had been chosen as the League's 'Player of the Month' - Marc Limbert (August 2006) and Tommy Mutton (November). Mutton and Dickinson had scored seven league goals apiece helping to negate the loss of Stuart Rain who moved back to Mold Alexandra (where typically he netted a hat-trick on his debut) after 399 games and 150 goals for Nomads in all competitions.

Our interest in the Loosemores League Cup ended with a 2-0 defeat at Rhyl in the quarter-final with another nemesis of ours, Lee Hunt, scoring both goals. Previously we had qualified from Group B along with The New Saints and at the expense of NEWI Cefn Druids and Airbus UK. Both Nomads and TNS won five of their six games, losing the odd one to each other. We beat Airbus UK 6-1 away and 7-2 at home while The New Saints thumped Airbus 11-0 in their first meeting when Nicky Ward, John Toner and Michael Wilde each scored hat-tricks.

On New Year's Day 2007 we were set to entertain Rhyl at Cae-Y-Castell and a big crowd was anticipated, quite possibly a league record for Nomads. Both teams were in good form and more than 700 had witnessed the Boxing Day game along the coast. Sadly the weather put paid to that and we had to wait until Haverfordwest County came north on 6th January to play our first 'home' game for six weeks. Yet it was well worth the wait for Nomads coasted into a 4-0 lead inside the first 35 minutes. County pulled a goal back before the break and that man Tim Hicks added another early in the second-half. Two more strikers entered the fray as The Bluebirds sensed something from the game and when Jack Christopher scrambled a third goal they were in the driving seat. Fortunately a late penalty kick allowed our centre-back Chris Williams to complete his hat-trick and we scraped through 5-3.

A 2-0 win at Caernarfon Town and a goalless draw with The New Saints kept us in the frame at the top before a disappointing 1-3 defeat at the hands of mid-table Bangor City, a side that had already lost five times at Farrar Road. Nomads had been pretty solid at the back all season with Paul Smith in goal, Swanick and Gary Lovell the full-backs and Williams alongside Gary Pinch at the heart of the defence. Another defeat followed as lowly Airbus UK, without an away win for almost twelve months, beat us 2-1 on a horrendously wet night at Flint.

By early March Nomads' interest in the Welsh Cup was still alive following victories over Aberystwyth Town, Newport YMCA and Llandudno but with Rhyl and TNS already out of the competition we were drawn away to the full-timers of Llanelli in the last eight. Despite their professionalism, the Reds lay three places behind us in the league table but found cup football to their liking and beat us 6-2 in the quarter-final before themselves losing 1-0 in the semi-final to Carmarthen Town, the eventual Welsh Cup winners.

Thankfully Nomads' league form improved after the cup loss although we were finding it hard to score goals. Chris Williams struck his fifth goal of the season in a 1-0 success at Newtown before our defence held firm in gaining a point from a goalless draw at high-flying Welshpool and then another three points came our way thanks to Tommy Mutton's strike against NEWI Cefn Druids.

Suddenly Nomads were on the up and despite being held to a 2-2 draw at home by Cwmbran Town the players fought hard for that point having been twice behind. Craig Garside scored both our goals and Chris Seargeant was on the scoresheet in each of the next two fixtures, scoring the game's only goal at Port Talbot Town and the first of two at Porthmadog four days later. Tommy Mutton added a second before Les Davies netted Porth's consolation. With four games remaining we found ourselves in third place two points behind Rhyl and seven ahead of Llanelli in fifth.

Eight minutes from the end of the home game against Aberystwyth Town on 7th April and the score at 0-0 Adam Dickinson was hauled to the ground and Nomads awarded a penalty kick. Sion James was rightfully red-carded joining team mate Luke Sherbon for an early bath. Limbert scored but only from the rebound off goalkeeper Richard Morgan and Aber's gallant nine men were defeated. That left us with home games against top sides Llanelli and Rhyl and a visit to lowly Caersws. A top three spot was ours for the taking given the right results from those three games but we failed. Llanelli won 1-0 at Flint and Caersws beat us 2-1, only their second home win of the entire campaign and the first for seven months! We battled hard against Rhyl and there was no score going into the last 20 minutes. Then Andy Moran found the back of our net and as if to seal our own fate a Dave Swanick own goal confirmed Rhyl as runners-up.

That we finished fifth was to the great credit of players and management considering every game was an away match that season. Then the bombshell came as Neville Powell left the club to take up the reins at Bangor City after 14 years with the Nomads.

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