Mark Little: I came to Penybont to play in Europe… now I want to do it two years in a row

Having set off on their first European tour last season, Penybont are looking to pack their bags once again this weekend.

The south Wales side finished third last season, but Bont found themselves in the bottom half heading into phase two, a place not many thought they would be. For Mark Little, he admitted there were concerns about where Penybont found themselves but stressed that they could still reach their ambitions from the start of the campaign.

“It was concerning how we finished phase one. We know what we wanted to achieve at the start of the season, but our goals are still out there on the table, and we can achieve those on Saturday.

“Even though we had a bit of a bad spell at the start of the season, it’s all coming together towards the end. We wanted to get back into Europe at the start of this season. There was no ‘we want to finish here or finish above this lot’, our aim was Europe and it’s still available to us.”

A final day victory over Haverfordwest County gave Penybont that golden opportunity to reach a European competition once again. The semi-final saw them come up against Newtown, a team who entered the end of season show as the highest placed team. However, Bont swept them aside at Latham Park.

“In my opinion, I don’t think Newtown got going because we set out and stuck to our game plan. We scored a couple of early goals which completely threw them. Newtown have had the same amount of time as us to prepare for the game, but that plan they had would have gone out the window when we scored our first goal.

“I was confident going into the game, because every time we’ve played Newtown, we’ve got the better of them, so it wasn’t a surprise to me that we won the game, but winning by that margin was definitely unexpected.”

Now, the only thing standing in Penybont’s way are Caernarfon Town, a team who themselves are trying to create their own history. In the two games in phase one, Bont ran out victorious. Despite being confident, Little knows it’s going to be a tough game at The Oval.

“This season, I think we’ve been evenly matched with them, the same with Newtown. I believe all three of us during the course of the season have been pretty even, so naturally, we’re expecting a tough game against Caernarfon.

“Having said that, overall, since I’ve started playing against them here, we’ve managed to get the better of them. We’ve won twice when we’ve played up there, and I do feel confident. It is going to be a difficult game, but I am confident.

“Our form at the moment is incredible. We’ve had seven clean sheets on the bounce, and we’ve been scoring freely. So, for that to just stop, other than the reason being it’s a playoff final, I don’t think is realistic.

“We have come out on top against them this season, but Caernarfon have done really well this year, and they’ve got plenty of good players. It’s going to be an exciting game, and that’s how you want it to be. It’s what you want a play-off final to look like.”

If Rhys Griffiths’ side are victorious, it won’t be the first time Little has been successful in a play-off situation. In 2011, he was part of the Peterborough United side that won promotion to the English Football League Championship, a game he feels has similarities to the ones he’s currently playing in Wales.

“It was a very long time ago now! We went up to Old Trafford and faced Huddersfield Town. In a way, it was similar to the Newtown game, and we were evenly matched against Huddersfield. We expected it to be a tight game with it being a play-off final, but it didn’t go that way because we scored the three goals and ended up winning comfortably. The game was a bit of a blur to me. I can’t remember too much of it, I just remember the buildup and the celebrations!”

Little will be hoping his past experience can help him and his team to reach the big stage once again. The veteran was contemplating retirement not so long ago. Now, he’s looking to finish the job Penybont set out to do all the way back in August.

“This is what I’ve come to Penybont to do; to get them into Europe. I finished my career in England, and in my head, I was half retiring. Griff asked me to come and have a season with the club and try help them achieve what they haven’t done before. We did that, and it was an amazing feeling.

“Now, I just want to do it again this year, because getting into Europe was our aim. To be able to complete the goal in two consecutive years would be an amazing achievement, and we will be going all guns blazing to do it this weekend.”

Saturday 18 May, 14:45

Caernarfon Town v Penybont

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