Time for our first full season in charge at Llanelli Town! Following an impressive recovery in the second half of last season we finished 4th in the league and earned a new 12-month contract. However there are much loftier ambitions this season with the board and media expecting us to win promotion to the JD Cymru Premier by winning the league.
It was expected to be a busy transfer window to try to turn this team into title challengers and busy it was…
A total of 10 players incoming, some of real quality too. Central midfielders, Isaac Olaniyan & Joe Porton, both 19 and rated 5 star at this level, and central defenders, George Burroughs & Perez Goumou, again both 19 and rated 4 star at this level, are fantastic additions to the first XI. The others are all good signings for the squad in defensive and midfield areas, and keep an eye out for Charlie Ridge, a very good striker to have at this level.
Tactics & Pre-Season
After the run we put together in the second half of last season I decided to stick with the same tactic that had got us those results. A 4-1-2-1-2 with wing backs overlapping on both sides to give us width in the final third, but instructing the team to play out from the back and focus the play through the middle of the pitch as that’s where our real quality players are. I also instructed the team to play attacking football as being an Arsenal fan (for my sins) that’s what Wenger brought me up on! You can see the full tactic below, a screenshot which was taken at the end of last season.
With the improved performances adopting this tactic last season and the new additions in the heart of defence and midfield I was confident it would lead us to the title this season. However for now it was time to crack on with pre-season friendlies, the results were a bit of a mixed bag, as were the performances, but I tend not to worry too much during pre-season as it is all about match fitness and team cohesion, particularly with such a high level of squad turnover at this level. We lost games we would be expected to lose and we beat who we should beat, no major surprises.
August meant that pre-season friendlies were done and we were straight into the action, with both the Nathaniel MG Cup (Welsh League Cup) and JD Cymru South league matches kicking off.
As you can see we had a fantastic month! Making it through the first and second round of the cup before winning the first 4 games in the league. The matches themselves were filled with entertainment, with new signing Isaac Olaniyan scoring a free kick on his debut and another new signing, Joe Porton scoring a 93rd minute winner against Goytre United to take us through to the third round.
Would you believe another 93rd minute winner gave us a morale-boosting win away at recently relegated Haverfordwest, and there was another goal-fest on display between us and Cwmbran Celtic, it was 5-3 last season and 5-2 this time around. The new heart of the midfield was ticking away nicely at the start of the season, with Olaniyan & Porton contributing 4 goals & 4 assists between them in the 7 games above, but it was club captain and star striker Nathan Logan stealing the headlines with an incredible 5 goals and 4 assists in just 7 games. You heard it here first, Nathan Logan is the JD Cymru South’s Harry Kane!
After the perfect start in August, I really wanted to push on in September and set the pace at the top of the league, and there was also a third round Nathan MG Cup tie to contend with.
As you can see we had a great start to the month away against recently promoted Caersws, with both Nathan Logan & Joe Porton on the scoresheet again. Unfortunately a really poor performance away at Trefelin followed where we couldn’t have any complaints about the 0-0 result, before a disappointing collapse at home against last season’s title challengers Afan Lido saw us go from being 2-0 up through Logan & Olaniyan (obviously) and cruising at half time to drawing the game 2-2. Plus with us having an expected goal ratio of 1.5 and Afan Lido only 0.43, it’s fair to say I was pretty frustrated with the result.
I decided that as the first XI had played pretty much every game so far I would rotate in the third round cup tie against Monmouth. Risky strategy as Monmouth were recently promoted into the same division as me, but I just felt it was needed. Fortunately, as you can see, the 9 changes to the team sheet worked a charm with backup striker Jamie Jenkins netting a hat-trick to see us through to the quarter final. Normal lineup and service resumed in the next game against Goytre United as a customary Nathan Logan goal and a hat-trick from summer signing Charlie Ridge put us 4-1 up before we conceded 2 late goals which gave the scoreline a more competitive look than the reality of the game, which we dominated.
Overall, despite 2 sloppy draws, I was happy with how the team were performing, and this is what the table looked like going into October:
October promised to be a busy month, with games in the league, the quarter final of the Nathanial MG Cup and a first round tie in another domestic cup, with the JD Welsh Cup (Welsh FA Cup) being introduced.
and what a month it was! Following a disappointing start with a 1-1 draw at home against Pontypridd (which is actually where I am currently living and writing this blog from, genuinely about 3 minutes walk from their pitch!) the lads were just unstoppable.
A completely rotated lineup recorded a comfortable 4-0 win against amateur side Blaenavon Blues, again with backup striker Jamie Jenkins netting another hat-trick to take us through to the next round, before a crucial 4-0 win again title challengers Briton Ferry. But just when I thought the month couldn’t get any better, we went and completed a giant killing of epic proportions in the Nathanial MG Cup quarter final against Connah’s Quay. The game was not exactly a classic…
But I didn’t care! I had stuck to my guns and my tactics against a team who were not only a division above us, and leading the Premier division at the time of this tie, but are also probably the biggest team in Welsh football and in 2019 they beat Scottish Premiership side Kilmarnock 3-2 on aggregate to make it through the Europa League first qualifying round. So you can imagine what my reaction was when we took them all the way and won on penalties! This was my biggest moment on this save so far and took us into a semi-final. We then rounded off the month with a win against Monmouth, meaning we are still yet to be beaten in any competition so far this season.
In the next episode we will be covering the months of November, December & January where we will try to push ahead with our title challenge whilst navigating a cup semi-final against Aberystwyth, another opponent from the JD Cymru Premier division. Can we complete another giant killing? Will our title charge crumble under the fixture congestion of the winter period? Find out on Sunday 3rd January 2021.
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Thank you for reading and see you again soon!