With just two rounds of first phase matches left for most Cymru Premier sides, the situation at the top of the table is very tight.
Current champions The New Saints lead the standings by just a point from Connah’s Quay Nomads, with Bala Town a mere two further back in third.
This time last season we had a similar situation. After campaign upon campaign of finishing streets ahead of the rest, it looked like at the end of phase one, TNS finally had a title fight on their hands from Barry Town United and the ever-improving Nomads.
After the 22-match ‘split’, Barry headed the table on 47 points, Saints had 46 and the Quay 45.
It appeared a major battle was on the cards over the final 10 sets of matches in phase two to be crowned champions, but it was here that TNS moved into top gear.
Saints collected a magnificent 28 points from a possible 30, including five straight away wins where they netted 22 goals and did not concede a single one, to clinch an eighth successive title and 13th in all with a grand total of 74 points.
Nomads claimed 17 more points to finish runners-up on 63, while Barry fell away badly, taking just nine points from their final 10 matches to end up third with 56 in all.
Is the same climax in store this time? or will Nomads and Bala make it much tougher for Scott Ruscoe’s side to scoop a ninth title on the bounce?
In their last two phase one matches, Saints visit tricky and in-form Newtown (Jan 10) and host main rivals Nomads (Jan 18).
Nomads are home to Barry (Jan 11) before visiting TNS, while Bala have to travel to Cardiff Met (Jan 11) before rounding off their opening phase at home to Cefn Druids (Jan 18).
It is vital that Nomads and Bala take as many points as they can from their next two games to stay as close to TNS as possible entering phase two.
If Saints are allowed to pinch a four or five-point lead entering the second part of the season it could make a huge difference.
Of course last season, TNS were in second at the completion of phase one before blowing the opposition away in the final 10 matches.
The Park Hall kings are always capable of doing that again, but if Nomads or Bala can stay strong who knows?
Saints have looked a little more vulnerable than usual this season, especially at home, and, unusually, have conceded more goals than Nomads or Bala.
Top three (Jan 1 2020)
The New Saints: Played 20 Points 44 GD + 41
Connah’s Quay Nomads: Played 20 Points 43 GD + 21
Bala Town: Played 20 Points 41 GD + 30
To play in Phase One
TNS: Jan 10 – Newtown (a); Jan 18 – Connah’s Quay Nomads (h)
Nomads: Jan 11 – Barry Town United (h); Jan 18 – TNS (a)
Bala: Jan 11 – Cardiff Met (a); Jan 18 – Cefn Druids (h)