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The Nomads celebrate Declan Poole's wonderstrike against TNS - © NCM Media
The Nomads celebrate their penalty shootout victory over Prestatyn Town in the JD Welsh Cup - © NCM Media
Lewis Short scores The Nomads' third against Carmarthen Town - © NCM Media
Declan Poole scores a stunning winner against The New Saints - © NCM Media
Andy Morrison celebrates The Nomads' 2-0 victory over Bala Town, thus securing a place in the UEFA Europa League Qualifying Rounds - © NCM Media

2016-17 Season Review: Phase Two

Date Published: Monday, 15th May, 2017 - 12:30pm

Looking to build on the strong start to the season, The Nomads headed into the second phase of the season, full of confidence, sitting second in the league and still in the JD Welsh Cup, where the second phase got underway.

The Nomads faced their longest domestic trip of the season with the near 300 mile round trip to Haverfordwest County, who proved less of a challenge than expected as The Nomads left 5-1 victors having lead 4-1 at half time, coasting to victory and progression to the quarter finals and a tough tie at high-flying Prestatyn Town, but the two weeks leading up to this cup clash, The Nomads had less than ideal preparation, losing out to both Carmarthen Town and Bangor City in consecutive weeks in the league, and while George Horan made his 350th start in the Welsh Premier League against Bangor, his night ended early as he was shown a red card as The Nomads fell to a 2-1 defeat.

It looked as though the losing run was going to continue in the Cup match against Prestatyn, as the Seasiders went 2-0 up in the first half, but goals from Kai Edwards and Wes Baynes brought The Nomads back into the game, forcing extra time and ultimately a penalty shootout which saw Prestatyn go 2-0 up to start with before losing out 4-3 at the end of a truly thrilling cup classic.

March was an extremely busy month for The Nomads with no less than five games in the month, and the side returned to league action at Maes Tegid in a tight affair, which looked to be going the way of Bala, before a late, deflected Ryan Wignall strike would give The Nomads a vital point in the race for second place, and would start The Nomads on a five game unbeaten run the in the league. The run continued the following week against Cardiff Met at Deeside Stadium where quick fire goals from Les Davies and Matty Williams gave The Nomads all three points as Met finished the game with ten men as talismanic defender, Emlyn Lewis was shown a red card on the hour mark.

A tough fixture at Carmarthen Town was next for the Nomads as they looked for revenge on the earlier phase two defeat dealt by The Old Gold, and Andy Morrison's side were in formidable form at the newly renamed Cymru Tyres Stadium. Early goals from Ryan Wignall and Kai Edwards were accompanied by a great counter-attacking goal from Lewis Short to give The Nomads a comfortable victory at a stadium that has always proved difficult for The Nomads.

The following Tuesday would mark the first of three closely arranged fixtures with The New Saints, and the already confirmed champions would take an early lead through a James Jones effort before John Disney drew The Nomads level. Minutes later, a dominant Nomads performance was rewarded with a stunning winner by Declan Poole, who volleyed home from inside the 18-yard box to give The Nomads a deserved 2-1 victory over TNS and boost their credentials as they chased down Bala Town in second place.

Disappointment followed on the following Saturday as a Les Davies header had given The Nomads a one goal lead over his former side, Bangor City, only to see a late equaliser from Rodrigo Branco denied The Nomads all three points in the third versus fourth clash and left the battle for Europa League qualification open.

One route to the Europa League was through a place in the JD Welsh Cup Final - a place in which was at stake when The Nomads met TNS at Bangor on April 1st, however it was the Champions who would come out on top this time, as goals from Adrian Cieslewicz, Aeron Edwards and Jamie Mullan sent TNS through to the final where they would meet Bala Town.

The result meant that The Nomads now needed to finish at least third in the league to qualify for the Europa League automatically as TNS and Bala's places in the JD Welsh Cup Final opened up third place as an automatic qualification spot. A tight game just six days later at Park Hall again saw TNS come out on top as a Greg Draper strike snuck under John Danby and gave the Saints all three points in a very tight game.

The following week however would prove to be a game of massive proportions as Bala Town came to Deeside Stadium. The Nomads started well and took the lead through a George Horan header in the first half, and later in the second half, a Lewis Short throw-in was flicked into his own goal by Stuart Jones - the result confirmed that The Nomads would finish in at least third place and would guarantee the side UEFA Europa League football for the second consecutive season. The result also saw The Nomads leapfrog Bala into second place, giving Andy Morrison's side the edge going into the final day of the season.

The Nomads went to Cardiff Met and simply had to match Bala's result against TNS. The match at Cardiff was an uninspiring one, finishing 0-0, while TNS defeated Bala 6-4, meaning that The Nomads had indeed bettered Bala's result and confirmed their spot as runners up in the Dafabet Welsh Premier League. The result meant that The Nomads not only qualified for the UEFA Europa League, but also secured a place in the Irn Bru Scottish Challenge Cup for the 2017/18 season. The result between TNS and Bala was also a significant one as the goals conceded by the champions, meant that The Nomads ended the season with the best defensive record in the Welsh Premier League, conceding just 24 goals in 32 games, keeping 15 clean sheets in the progress.

Looking back on the season, Manager Andy Morrison said "The Haverfordwest game was a great result, but for me it created a lot of bad habits - it wasn't until the away game at Bala that we returned to doing what we are very good at. The following month, we were very good - every game we gave a professional, disciplined performance, culminating in me receiving the Manager of the Month award in March.

After the Carmarthen and Bangor games, our bottle was questioned by those outside the changing rooms - I never doubted the strength and character of my group and had no doubt we would do what we needed. Looking back, the home game against Bala was the key game if we were to finish second. We executed the game plan to perfection - Bala never had a shot on target and what should have been a close game between two very good teams was, in all fairness, a routine day for us."

Morrison went on to say; "After the TNS game I was asked if TNS could do us a favour against Bangor, I stuck my neck out and said 'Connah's Quay Nomads don't need any favours from anyone - we will beat Bala and get the result that is needed at Cardiff Met.' That takes belief in your players, putting yourself up there to be shot down. Rightly or wrongly, that's the person I am and that's how I see football. If I believe in my lads, why would I play down our chances with old cliches?!"

Morrison concluded by saying "When the players know how much I believe in them, it will always come through and that's exactly what they did in the last two games. The players take the credit - I am very fortunate to have worked with them in the last 18 months - not just good footballers but more importantly, good men."


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