Welcome back ladies and gents! Last time I left you we had made a good recovery from our sluggish start and the team felt like they were understanding each other better and putting in some really good performances. Unfortunately it hadn’t been enough to get us close to the top of the table at this point due to the incredible form of Bangor City, but we’re still early in the season so there’s plenty of time left! Let’s get into it…
Into probably the most crucial month of the season we go! Bangor City had been relentless in their pursuit of the title and it was going to need a colossal run of results, mixed with a downturn in fortunes on Bangor’s behalf for us to have any chance of catching them and finally winning the JD Cymru Premier, but we a huge opportunity to close the gap as we play them twice in the league in 4 days during the month of December. Win both games and we’re suddenly favourites for the title, lose both and the title race is over before the turn of the year. However there are 3 games to get through before those matches.
A dominant performance and 8th minute goal from midfielder Sam Bowen was enough to give us the victory away against Carmarthen (1-0) before we continued to dispel those historical bogey team tags by defeating Barry Town (3-1) in the 3rd round of the JD Welsh Cup. Our final game before the back-to-back matches against Bangor City was a home tie against Caernarfon, who had been an early season surprise package as they tried to maintain a fight for the European places despite being tipped for relegation before the season kicked off, however on this occasion a hat-trick from Isaac Vassell helped us on our way to an important 4-2 victory. We also had a new signing join us in December, former Hartlepool striker Mason Bloomfield signed as a free agent, taking the running total of incoming players this season to 17!
But here we go, the big games! Home and then away against Bangor City, we were 3 points behind them going into the first game so 2 results in our favour and we would be in a very strong position heading into 2024, 2 losses and we would be 9 points behind them. Here we go then, a double 6 pointer… AN UNPRECEDENTED 12 POINTER!!
As you can see the results were soul destroying to be honest. In the home game we actually took the lead early on before Bangor got one back to level the score heading into half-time. A close second half really could have gone either way but in the 87th minute Bangor City’s midfielder Joe Lynch struck a killer blow to win the game for them and I was devastated. A draw was the fair result, but as we all know, football isn’t fair!
But 4 days later we had the chance to put ourselves right back in the title mix if we could get a victory. In the end I was delighted to end up with a draw as we had gone 2-0 down in the 70th minute, before two goals in 7 minutes earned us a share of the points. In all honesty I knew it wasn’t enough, we could not lose either of these games if we wanted to stay in touch for the title, it was just not an option. This is how the table looked at the end of December 2023:
January was a quiet month on the match front with only 2 league games and a 4th round JD welsh cup tie. The league games were also the last games before the league split so I was hoping for maximum points to put us as close to Bangor City as possible. We made just the one signing in January, on the 1st day of the month central midfielder Evan Press joined us on a free transfer from Barry Town, so that makes it 18 new players so far this season! Keep in mind I play with a first team squad of 22 players, 2 for each position, so it really has been manic getting all these reinforcements through the door and getting them playing together, but we move! Anyway back to the matches:
A disappointing result against Cardiff Met Uni meant the new year started off in frustrating fashion. Our performance deserved a comfortable win but in the end it took until the 92nd minute for us to rescue a point from the game (1-1). We quickly bounced back with a comfortable victory against Newtown (2-1) to finish the first stage of the season prior to the split with a win, before a late goal from Connor Townsend deservedly put us into the next round of the JD Welsh Cup at the expense of Caernarfon (2-1). So at the end of January and the first split the table looked like this:
January 2024 – Pre-Contract Signings
Rather than using January as an opportunity to make even more signings this season I instead tried to look ahead for next season when the right pre-contracts came along. We made 5 pre-contract signings for next season and I have to say I’m really impressed with the quality and potential of the players. They were all players that I expect to walk into the starting XI and could potentially earn a club of Bala’s size some decent transfer fees in the future, additionally as it was 2 CB’s, 2 CM’s & 1 ST they were all signings to strengthen the spine of the team. Take a look at the players below, great work from my scouts!
P.S – Ignore the compensation fees, all of these players were signed for free! If they were due compensation I just bid £0 and they were accepted as a lot of players move for free in the welsh leagues.
So as you could see from the league table at the split, our next 10 games would be home and away against Bangor City, TNS, Connah’s Quay, former employers Llanelli Town & Barry Town. I always find the games after the split very difficult, the quality of the opponent was very high and the difference between the teams were marginal at this level so every game is a real battle. However the split did provide us with another opportunity to play Bangor City twice… maybe, just maybe the title race was not over yet!
Before we get into the games, just to keep you in the loop, another 2 players joined us on free transfers in February, up to 20 signings for the season if you’re keeping track! Former Dundee United CB Ryan Edwards joined us after being released by Burton and Welshman David Jones, a 4 star rated regen striker joined on a free following his release from Columbus Crew in the MLS. Anyway let’s get into this crucial month of matches:
But as you can see we didn’t have the month we hoped for, despite being unbeaten. a 1-1 draw away to Connah’s Quay was a fair result in all honesty. Then despite having 17 shots against Barry Town the ball would just not find it’s way into the back of the net and the game ended in a hugely frustrating 0-0 draw. Up next was our first massive game against Bangor City, made even bigger by the disappointing start to the month, unfortunately even though we again took the lead we just couldn’t hold on and it finished 1-1 which was 3 draws in a row and just not good enough quite frankly. It looked like we would finish the month with 4 draws in a row until new signing David Jones scored a 96th minute winner in front of the TV cameras against TNS to give us a much needed win!
I forgot to screenshot the table at the end of February, but I remembered after the first game of March which we won (spoiler alert). So with 5 games to in the league the table looked like this:
Unfortunately we are just drawing too many games! A 7 point gap with 5 games to go would be tough to overturn, but remember we still have to play Bangor City again so it was still possible if we could just turn those draws into wins.
February also brought more good news on the coaching qualification front as we finished our Continental C Licence and immediately began working towards the Continental B Licence which would be wrapped up in August 2024. I really felt like at the end of this season with the qualifications I now had and how well I had done with rebuilding Llanelli & Bala that I could get some good offers from higher reputation teams, maybe around Sky Bet League 2 level or similar abroad.
In the next episode we will be going through March & April to finish off the season, can we make a late charge to win the league? As well as finishing off the season we will also be going through the summer months where we receive a very interesting job offer! Make sure you check out how we get on when the next episode drops on Wednesday 27th January 2021.
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While you’re here if you want to follow more challenges go over to Scott’s (the co-author of this site) challenge where he is on a journey to rebuild Bolton Wanderers and take them on a Europa League run! He has just finished the second season of his save so make sure you go back to the start here > Link: https://dpfmblog.com/2020/12/21/bolton-back-to-europa-s1e1/
Thank you for reading, as always please keep safe and we’ll see you again soon!