Nomads deliver real shot in the arm for North Wales women’s football

Nomads (red) put pressure on the Port Talbot goal on Sunday. Picture: Jay Catton

Friday night brought much joy for Connah’s Quay Nomads men’s team as they went top of the Cymru Premier after a 4-0 home thrashing of Caernarfon Town.

That result put Andy Morrison’s men a point ahead of eight-times-in-succession champions The New Saints with eight rounds of matches to go.

The question now has to be asked – is this finally the season when the mighty’ Saints run of titles comes to an end?

It all makes this Friday’s tussle at Deeside Stadium between Nomads and TNS a massive occasion.

That victory over Caernarfon, and TNS’ draw at Bala, was certainly cause to rejoice, but the weekend celebrations were far from over for Connah’s Quay Nomads FC.

On Sunday, the newly-formed Nomads women’s team achieved one of the best results in the history of North Wales female football.

In just their 11th competitive match (think about that for a second), Sara Hilton’s side smashed the odds by knocking Welsh Premier League team Port Talbot out of the FAW Women’s Welsh Cup by a 2-1 scoreline.

Most North Wales women’s teams have never pulled off a result of that magnitude – never mind after just 11 games!

Not only did they achieve a huge giant-killing, Nomads dumped out a team of vast experience in spite of having to cope with such a disruptive season due to the appalling weather. Sunday was only Nomads’ third match of 2020.

After the game Quay’s manager Sara Hilton was understandably delighted, but also typically down to earth about what had just occurred.

She said: “We’re a brand new team so we’ve had to play in the third tier, so it’s a case of making sure that doesn’t really define us as who we are as a club.”

In other words, we may be third tier now, but that’s not where we want to stay. We may be where we are in status, but we think bigger, see ourselves as something which could progress much higher.

North Wales women’s football seriously needed Sunday’s result.

This season saw us lose the last of our representatives in the Welsh Premier Women’s League when Llandudno resigned.

Right now, that league is not national any more. It is the South Wales League plus Aberystwyth. That can only be very bad for the domestic women’s game in Wales.

The FAW have allowed it to happen. Slowly but surely, in recent years we have lost five North Wales teams from that league because of the cost and commitment involved.

It all boils down to finance and not enough of it being invested in grassroots.

New head of women’s and girls football in Wales, Lowri Roberts, has plans to improve things and she deserves our support.

Candice Nellist (red) scored Nomads’ opening goal against Port Talbot. Picture: Jay Catton

But for now, in North Wales, we are left with our own league which is hardly running smoothly.

Of course, the weather has to shoulder much of the blame for the large amount of postponements this season and there is nothing any of us can do about the elements.

But still, just like last season, teams are able to call-off games too easily, not just because of the weather and seemingly without any sort of punishment, as used to be the case.

Some teams are doing everything they can to make the league thrive, others not so. Unless everyone starts pulling together it won’t get any better.

The North Wales League missed a trick by denying Llandudno entry in December after the club had pulled out of the WPWL.

Tudno had a 3G pitch available which straightaway could have helped ease league fixture congestion. Allowing them in would also have boosted the chances of our strongest team of recent years staying together.

But the league said it was too late to join, even though at the time some teams had only played three or four matches.

The women’s game in North Wales gets a raw deal. For one thing, and this applies to the men as well, not enough is invested in grassroots to provide better pitches.

If the ladies share a field with a men’s team, the lads get first dabs on a Saturday and the females get what remains on a Sunday. Often a quagmire.

The other alternative is using 3G pitches at leisure centres. This can be quite costly, and because leisure centres have less staff on a Sunday, there is often necessity to cover labour costs.

Whoever plans North Wales football seemingly never really has the women’s game in mind.

It has been suggested making the NWWFL all one league, a 16-team competition, which will give sides more chance of playing games on a Sunday.

However, such an arrangement would cause a massive divide.

Teams getting heavily beaten at the bottom of Division Two, would only suffer more at the hands of Division One’s stronger sides if it all became one league.

This would probably lead to resignations, plus reluctance from novice teams to apply to join. There is no simple answer.

And as for future promotion to the WPWL, who is going to be genuinely interested in joining a national league where the odds, like they are at present, are so vastly stacked against the north?

In short, this season had been pretty gloomy for North Wales – until Nomads brought some joy to the table on Sunday.

Sara Hilton (front) was an ideal choice as Nomads women’s manager. Pic: Nik Mesney, NCM Media

Signing up Sara Hilton as manager was a majorly positive move, given her status and experience in the game.

Just like the men’s team brought in Andy Morrison, with Craig Harrison and Jay Catton as assistants, it was a master stroke appointing Hilton.

She has built a strong squad, and with good resources and a professional set-up and attitude at Deeside Stadium, maybe a time where North Wales can produce a team capable of giving the south a run for its money might not be as far away as we think.

And if Llandudno can build up their strength again by playing North Wales League next season, maybe they, with the expertise at hand, could follow suit.

Of course, Tudno are still to play their Welsh Cup quarter-final against Abergavenny.

What a stunning feat it would be if a team which has not kicked a ball since November could also make the semis.

And we do have some amazing talent in the North Wales League too.

Bethel, for instance, have a group of fantastic young players who really showed up well in their recent Welsh Cup defeat at mighty Swansea. They truly are a promising team.

But for now, it’s hats off to the Nomads – they have given us some hope at a time where North Wales women’s football desperately needed it.

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