Only 32 clubs remain in the JD Welsh Cup as the competition returns this weekend. Current holders and JD Cymru Premier leaders The New Saints will inevitably be favourites to reach the latter stages, but for once, they find themselves up against a team with an even better domestic record than their own.
In order to progress, The New Saints will need to do something that no other club has done in all competitions this season, and that is to beat Trethomas Bluebirds. The Tier 3 side from the Ardal South East have won all of their 14 competitive games this season, sit top of the table with a perfect record, and are currently challenging on four fronts. Last season, the village side from near Caerphilly claimed the FAW Amateur Trophy under manager Mark Dunford, and they are not heading to Park Hall on Saturday to make up the numbers.
“There was an initial feeling of shock but then delight from the boys,” explained Dunford to the Caerphilly Observer following the draw. “They’re the best domestic team in Wales. It’s an amazing opportunity. We’ll obviously need to plan well, but we know we can pose a threat. Winning the game is a massive ask and we’ll need a few things to go our way, but we’re not going up there to just enjoy it. The whole thing is testimony to the club and how far we’ve come. It’s sure to be a great occasion.”
Levi Rees and Gareth Tedstone have scored 26 goals between them in all competitions for the Bluebirds already this season, with Rees scoring in each of their opening three games in the JD Welsh Cup, including four in the 6-1 win over Penrhiwceiber Rangers in the previous round. Meanwhile, The New Saints are the undefeated leaders of the JD Cymru Premier, with Craig Harrison’s side scoring 53 goals in 15 league games alone this season. They progressed from Round 2 with a 5-0 win over Ruthin Town.
The weekend action begins on Friday night when the live Sgorio cameras head to Stebonheath for one of the most-intriguing ties of the round as Llanelli take on Penybont. Currently top of the JD Cymru South, Llanelli are pushing for a return to the top-flight under manager Lee John, while Penybont were JD Welsh Cup finalists in 2021/22 and semi-finalists last season. However, the headlines will centre around Penybont manager Rhys Griffiths as he returns to the club where he established himself as one of the all-time great strikers in the domestic game.
Between 2006 and 2012, Griffiths won the Golden Boot in every single season he represented Llanelli, scoring 180 goals in 181 appearances. The JD Cymru Premier title in 2007/08 was following in 2010/11 by the JD Welsh Cup, and there is no doubt that it will be an emotional return for Griffiths given his history with his opponents. The second Friday night match takes place at Cae y Castell as Connah’s Quay Nomads take on Prestatyn Town. There is a special connection to the competition for both teams, with Prestatyn Town lifting the trophy in 2012/13 before the Nomads matched their achievement in 2017/18. Both games kick-off at 7.45pm.
The remaining 13 ties take place on Saturday afternoon, and like Trethomas Bluebirds, there are five other clubs from Tier 3 daring to dream of JD Welsh Cup glory. In fact, at least two Tier 3 clubs are guaranteed to progress to the last 16 as Flint Mountain host Canton FC and South Gower take on Chepstow Town. The Tier 3 involvement is completed by Llanuwchllyn of the Ardal North East who will meet Buckley Town of the JD Cymru North.
But one of the stories of the round could take place at Porthmadog as they host Cardiff Airport of the South Wales Alliance Premier Division at Y Traeth. The only side from Tier 4 left in the competition, this will be Cardiff Airport’s fifth JD Welsh Cup tie of the season having already disposed of Cwmbach Royal Stars, Cardiff Bay, Cefn Forest and Abergavenny Town in previous rounds. Meanwhile, Porthmadog required penalties to see of the challenge of JD Cymru North rivals Chirk AAA.
The JD Welsh Cup Round 4 draw will be broadcast on RedWall+ at 8pm on Friday 17 November.