Countdown to 2019-20: Welsh National League (Wrexham Area)

Cefn Albion won the FAW Trophy and Premier Cup last season. Could this be their year in the league?

Premier Division

We’ve had some good news and some not so great regarding the Premier Division in the last couple of days.

Definitely good, is the fact Rhydymwyn’s application to join the Premier has been successful.

It’s pleasing to see this proud club in the top division, but also it means we now have an even number of 16 clubs so all members, technically, can be playing every weekend.

Sadly, things are not so certain for Holywell Town, who through no fault of their own have been suspended from football – along with Welsh Alliance club Llandyrnog United – for about three weeks at least while the outcome to the arbitration hearing of Bangor City versus the FAW is awaited.

Neither Holywell or Llandyrnog are able to play pending the appeal result, which could see the Wellmen promoted back to tier-two JD Cymru North while Dyrny might be relegated from Welsh Alliance Division One.

If Holywell remain in the WNL Premier, we can expect a good season from them.

Johnny Haseldin has experienced great success at tier three, including being the only manager at this level ever to lead a team to a Welsh Cup semi-final.

He was also in charge of the Holywell side which landed a treble, Welsh Alliance title, FAW Trophy and Mawddach Challenge Cup, back in 2014/15.

Haseldin has recruited well this summer and looks to have a squad more than capable of a title challenge.

Last season’s Premier champions FC Queen’s Park are likely to go close again, especially with the prolific Barry Torrence back on board and talisman Mike Latham also up front.

What about newcomers Plas Madoc? Last season’s runaway Division One champions – who did not lose a single game – are aiming for a third league title on the bounce.

Ryan Roberts’ side have some quality players for sure – goal machine Nicky Williams is the star man, but centre-half Shaun Valentine, last year’s managers and players player, is an absolute rock at the back who had to turn down a few paying clubs off to remain with Madoc.

Liam Sklenar is a very pacey attacker who has scored plenty at this standard before, Jamie Williams is a goal-getting number 10, Richard Lawrence provides the legs in the engine room that drives the team forward and Markus Davies offers a touch of class in centre-midfield.

Plas have also made a few extra class signings this summer, so watch out for this side.

Talking of additions, Penycae have brought in numerous extra personnel in pre-season, not least striker Conner Kendrick, such a success with double cup winners Cefn Albion last term.

Another cracking capture is Andrew Swarbrick, former front man with Cefn Druids in the Huws Gray Alliance among others, and the returning Evan Woodall is expected to shine.

Penycae’s only problem might be getting so many new players to gel at once, but in pre-season they’ve looked the business and it is hard to see them not being in and around the top three.

Cefn Albion, of course, have to be respected. Their cup exploits of last season came at the expense of league impact in many ways, but with a good young squad and a tremendous team spirit, they can end up much higher than their ninth position of 2018-19.

Brymbo were not far off taking the title last season and should be a force again, while Mold Alex have recruited smartly in the summer with striker Danny Warren among those to look out for.

Brickfield Rangers have a plethora of new players in the ranks and it remains to be seen how they settle, while the likes of Chirk AAA, Saltney and Llay Welfare are all capable of making their mark.

As for Rhydymwyn? A season of consolidation perhaps, given they were just third in Division One last season, but with the likes of goal king Scott Nelson re-signing, plus some exciting new faces in the mix, the Mornflake Cereal Ground could be the scene of some great wins in the months ahead.

Rhostyllen’s new boss Warren Duckett is tipped to transfer his great playing skills successfully into management and he has delivered some fine signings so far such as the returning Lewis Clamp, Andrew Bithell, Aaron Edwards and Alistair Gibson.

Who for the title? Such a tough one, but based on past performance I’ll take a safe (ish) option and go for Queen’s Park to repeat last season’s success.

Premier Division (16 teams)
Brickfield Rangers
Castell AC
Cefn Albion
Chirk AAA
Holywell Town
Llay Welfare
Mold Alexandra
Plas Madoc
Queen’s Park
Rhos Aelwyd
Saltney Town

Division One

With Rhydymwyn’s late elevation, just 11 teams will vie for honours in Division One.

Rhosllanerchrugog are an interesting prospect this season with new boss Darren ‘Tonto’ Jones at the helm. This man will get his team in the right frame of mind.

Cefn Mawr Rangers have signed smartly, central operator Tom Pemberton, rock-solid defender Callum Dutton and striker or attacking midfielder Callum Smith positive additions. The experienced Luke Maybury looks a good appointment as first team coach.

Newcomers Halkyn & Flint Mountain, who won the North East Wales League last season carrying just the second part of that name, are another worthy of attention.

Mountain have pulled off what could prove one of the summer’s best signings in Aled Reece, a former Connah’s Quay Nomads youth star, as well as Buckley Town, FC Nomads and Mold Alex striker with a genuine eye for goal. They have plenty of other net-finders too.

This is an ambitious club – they have relocated to Pant Newydd and amalgamated their name with Halkyn in a bid to progress further up the pyramid.

Coedpoeth began their season nicely with a NEWFA Challenge Cup win at Premier club Llay Welfare. Could this be Coedy’s year to shine?

And positive noises are coming out of Lex too. When this club gets it together they can really go places, as their past form shows.

Who will be crowned champions? Tough call, lots of unknown quantities, but with North East Wales League clubs having such a good record when they join this division, I’m sticking my neck out and backing Halkyn & Flint Mountain to finish top.

Division One (11)
Cefn Mawr Rangers
Halkyn & Flint Mountain
Hawarden Rangers
Johnstown YFC
Lex XI
Llangollen Town
Mynydd Isa Spartans
New Brighton Villa

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