Five clubs from the JD Cymru Premier will focus their attentions on the JD Welsh Cup this weekend and all five managers head into the quarter-finals having already tasted success in the competition during each of their respective playing and managerial careers.
However, three clubs from the second tier of the domestic game hopeful of upsetting their JD Cymru Premier opponents to move a step closer to reaching the final. While the challenges facing Briton Ferry Llansawel, Cwmbran Celtic and Holywell Town could not be tougher, the magic of the cup means that dreams can come true in a season that has already delivered some surprise results.
The action begins on Saturday, 4 February, when three of the four ties take place. Bala Town manager Colin Caton has already tasted success this season as his side claimed the Nathaniel MG Cup last weekend with a penalty shoot-out victory over Connah’s Quay Nomads. They welcome Briton Ferry Llansawel of the JD Cymru South to Maes Tegid, and while Caton and his club will still be revelling in their latest cup triumph, the JD Welsh Cup will bring back memories of the 2016/17 season when they won the trophy for the only time in their history with a famous 2-1 victory over The New Saints.
Jordan Evans and Kieran Smith scored two late goals for the Lakesides at Nantporth that April afternoon after Greg Draper had given The New Saints the lead. “We never stop achieving and we don’t stop making history,” explained Caton to Sgorio after the match. “This is the big one, it means everything. The New Saints are an absolute top side, but we’ve stopped them from doing the treble-treble and I think it’s good for the league that we’ve done that.” Bala Town edged past Pontypridd United 2-1 in the last round while Briton Ferry Llansawel, the highest goalscorers in the JD Cymru South, progressed to the last eight with a penalty shoot-out victory away to Buckley Town.
It was a decade ago in 2012/13 that one of the most memorable JD Welsh Cup Finals in recent history took place as Prestatyn Town defeated Bangor City 3-1 after extra-time to lift the trophy. Current Connah’s Quay Nomads manager Neil Gibson guided the side to that famous victory in a match that is remembered for the heroics of goalkeeper Jon Hill-Dunt. The Nomads won the JD Welsh Cup in 2017/18 under Andy Morrison, and now Gibson will be targetting a repeat of his 2013 success as his side host Airbus UK Broughton after defeating Llanelli Town in the last round, and their next opponents currently sit bottom of the JD Cymru Premier.
In the opposite dugout on Saturday will be former striker Jamie Reed. The 35-year old was appointed as manager of Airbus UK Broughton in October last year after calling time on a journeyman playing career that seen him represent clubs in Wales, England, Northern Ireland and Australia. “I’m really looking forward to the challenge and I’m looking to bring the whole club together to move forward,” said Reed following his appointment. “I’m keen to bring a positive approach that will hopefully give us the best possible chance of competing in this league. It’s time to come together, roll our sleeves up and have a go. Then we will see what happens.”
Although Airbus UK Broughton currently sit bottom of the JD Cymru Premier and are still searching for their first league win, victories over FC Queens Park, Trefelin BGC and Pontardawe Town have seen them reach the quarter-finals of the JD Welsh Cup. It’s a competition that Reed won as a player with Bangor City in 2009/10 when he scored in the 3-2 victory over Port Talbot Town at Llanelli, and he claimed a second winners’ medal in 2014/15 with The New Saints as his side claimed a 2-0 win over Newtown at Latham Park.
Of course, The New Saints are no strangers to JD Welsh Cup success and the current holders have claimed the trophy eight times since 1995/96. Craig Harrison returned to the club for a second spell as manager last year having previously guided the team from Park Hall through their most-successful period, during which he won the JD Welsh Cup four times between 2011/12 and 2015/16. Harrison was the manager when the club completed the double-treble and achieved a new world record of 27 consecutive victories, and with a 16 point lead at the top of the table, Harrison will have another domestic double in his sights as they travel to JD Cymru South side Cwmbran Celtic.
The fourth and final JD Welsh Cup quarter-final tie of the weekend takes place on Sunday live on Sgorio (12.45pm) as Penybont host Holywell Town of the JD Cymru North. Penybont manager Rhys Griffiths guided his side to their first JD Welsh Cup Final last season but they were defeated by The New Saints 3-2 at the Cardiff City Stadium. “We’re proud to reach the final,” said Griffiths after the match. “But I’m determined, and we want to achieve more.” Penybont progressed to the quarter-finals with a 2-0 away to Gresford last month through goals from Mael Davies and Kostya Georgievsky, while opponents Holywell Town defeated Guilsfield 2-1, with captain Daniel Andrews scoring the decisive goal for the side currently second in the table.
Griffiths is one of the greatest strikers in the history of the JD Cymru Premier and sits second on the all-time goalscorers list behind Marc Lloyd-Williams. During his playing career, Griffiths scored twice in the 2010/11 JD Welsh Cup Final as his Llanelli side defeated holders Bangor City 4-1, lifting the trophy for the one and only time in his career.
“It was a wonderful day, at the time it was my happiest day in football, and possibly still is.”Rhys Griffiths, Penybont Manager