Tangerines’ Treble – Tomos Wyn Jones on season Conwy Borough bounced back

Iolo Hughes raises the cup for a triumphant Conwy Borough. Picture: Aled Wyn Jones

Conwy Borough had endured a mixed 2010s decade until it all came good in a 2017-18 treble-winning season.

They were promoted from the Welsh Alliance in 2010/11, thus returning to the second tier of Welsh football after a stint out of it.

After changing their name in 2012 to Conwy Borough, they enjoyed a period near the top of the charts, including a 2nd place finish in the 13/14 season, though 10 points adrift of top spot.

But the good days at the Morfa soon dried up, and in 2016/17 they found themselves relegated from the Cymru Alliance, with most of their players leaving the club.

The Tangerines’ future looked bleak, playing tier 3 football for the first time in 6 seasons, losing their manager and most of their players.

I’ll be looking back on the 2017/18 campaign at Y Morfa, their rebuild at the start of the season, which led to their historic treble.

Treble joy for Conwy Borough

Gareth Thomas (left) with key signing Corrig McGonigle

A rebuild was required, and on May 14, 2017, Conwy Borough appointed highly experienced manager Gareth Thomas (Perry).

Thomas had guided Denbigh Town to a third-place finish in the Cymru Alliance in 2015/16, and having played in the top division of Welsh football for Flint Town United and Connah’s Quay Nomads, Boro had certainly recruited bags of quality and knowledge.

A week later, Perry’s number two was confirmed as Alun Winstanley, a member of Caernarfon Town’s 2015/16 management team, who won the Cymru Alliance title and the league cup.

Corrig McGonigle on the ball. Pic: Aled Wyn Jones

After the coaching team was set-up, Thomas’s job now was drafting in players.

With Glantraeth’s decision not to go up to the Cymru Alliance after winning the Welsh Alliance Division One title, many players left the club, and gave Borough the perfect opportunity to take full advantage of the situation.

On June 7, they made their first round of signings, securing the services of goal machine Corrig McGonigle, who scored 59 times in all competitions for Glantraeth the previous season.

Iolo Hughes and Sion Hogan also committed to the Tangerines, following successful spells at Glan.

Jamie Roberts (white) challenges for Conwy. Pic: Aled Wyn Jones

And former Caernarfon Town and Llanrug United striker Kev Lloyd also signed for the Morfa side, further boosting their attacking options.

The Tangerines were certainly not taking their foot off the gas, bringing in Guto Hughes, Tom Smith, Matty Hughes and Ant Williams, who had played under Thomas at his previous club, Denbigh Town.

By June 27, Conwy had further strengthened, with 16/17 champion Gethin Maxwell joining. Former Caernarfon Town and Bangor City youngster Phil Warrington committed to the club, as well as goalkeepers Ceirion Hall and Ryan Woods.

As the season was fast approaching, Conwy made two signings on the eve of matchday one, with former Liverpool academy starlet Tom Walsh and Glantraeth captain Matthew Lock joining the ranks.

After a decent pre-season, with players starting to gel together, Thomas’s side faced Llanberis at Ffordd Padarn.

Many expected a tough opening game against the Division One regulars, but Conwy strolled to an 8-0 breeze, with Hogan scoring a quadruple, McGonigle three and Lloyd the other goal.

After consecutive 4-1 victories over Mynydd Llandegai and Greenfield, Borough faced a tough task at Barmouth & Dyffryn United, but that man McGonigle stood out yet again, pocketiing a hat-trick as the Tangerines triumphed 5-3.

However, Conwy dropped their first points of the season at the end of August, as they were held 2-2 at the Morfa by Llandyrnog United, the home attack struggling against a stubborn Dyrny defence.

After capturing Cofis Jamie Roberts and Nathan Williams, and keeper Ben Heald putting pen to paper, Borough’s attention turned towards the Welsh Cup, and after making a whole host of changes, they ran out 4-1 winners against Amlwch Town.

Iolo Hughes (centre) celebrates a goal for Borough. Pic: Aled Wyn Jones

A 3-3 draw against St Asaph made it two without a win the league, and Borough now knew they were not in for an easy stroll in the park.

They faced Holyhead Town in round two of the FAW Trophy, and although they beat the Holy Islanders, all attention on the game was irrelevant due to the horrific injury club captain Tom Smith suffered to his leg. It ruled him out for the season – a huge blow in terms of leadership for the side.

Borough finally got back on track in the league, with new signing Roberts scoring his first of the season in a 4-0 victory at Trearddur Bay United.

Boro also completed the month by signing Rhyl stars Cory Williams and James Bell, boosting squad depth yet further.

After a 5-1 win against Bodedern Athletic in the Welsh Cup, Borough faced their toughest challenge of the season versus fellow promotion chasers Llangefni Town at Cae Bob Parry.

In a closely fought battle, the Tangerines emerged winners, with former Glantraeth star Matthew Lock bagging a 76th minute decider in a 2-1 success.

After a 7-2 third round caning of Coedpoeth United in the FAW Trophy, Borough took on Nantlle Vale in round one of the Cookson Cup.

And yet again they ran riot against a tier-three side, emerging 7-0 winners.

Despite the team’s awesome form, Perry wanted to keep the Conwy players on their toes, so he signed yet another newcomer, namely Darren Gowans from Cymru Alliance side Holywell Town.

After a strong October, November didn’t not get off to the best of starts, as Boro were knocked out of the Welsh Cup at the hands of tier 2 side Gresford.

On November 11, Borough soon made up for their defeat by demolishing Llandudno Albion 6-2, McGonigle notching another three.

And the Tangerines secured their spot in round 5 of the FAW Trophy, following a 2-1 home victory against Cefn Albion.

Conwy were entering the festive season in great spirits, beating Barmouth & Dyffryn United 2-1.

After another draw at the Morfa, Borough really needed a cup game to take their attention away from the league, and booked a semi-final spot in the Cookson Cup, pipping visitors St Asaph City 2-1.

And Borough sealed off 2017 with a comfortable 5-0 win against Saints in the league.

Conwy Borough (white) on the attack. Pic: Aled Jones

Kev Lloyd, Phil Warrington and Warren Adam all departed the club before the end of the year, seeking new opportunities.

The new year certainly started sourly for the Tangerines, as they fell to a 4-1 defeat at home to Llandudno Albion.

Questions were asked, and with Llangefni closing in on Borough at the top, Conwy knew they needed to pick up form quickly to keep Cefni at bay.

After reaching the FAW Trophy quarter-finals with an extra time victory over Llanfair United, they turned focus to the Mawddach Challenge Cup, recording an entertaining 4-2 victory against visitors Mochdre Sports.

Wins against Penrhyndeudraeth and Trearddur Bay United in the league meant Borough were starting to gain momentum at a key time in the season.

They knew any slip-ups would open the door wide in the title race.

Dean Seager became the latest addition for the Tangerines, and on February 7, they locked horns with Llangefni for a second time, this time on home soil.

Yet again a close game was played out, with the same score line occurring, but this time visitors Cefni were victorious, following a James Saxon winner.

Conwy knew they had to maintain a near perfect run until the end of the season to fend off Cefni, but next was the FAW Trophy quarter final where Boro stormed to a 7-1 win over a pitiful Grange Albion to cement a place in the last four.

Conwy were knocked out of the Mawddach Cup by Llandudno Albion, eliminating the chance of an historic tier-three quadruple for the Morfa men.

Borough had to win their next league fixture and did this in style, with Mynydd Llandegai 8-1 victims at Y Morfa, Cory Williams netting a double.

Conwy made the long journey to Park Avenue, Aberystwyth at the start of March to take on Penydarren BGC in the FAW Trophy semi-final. They ran out comfortable 3-0 winners, with Seager scoring the third.

Although Borough were thriving in cup competitions, they were struggling for consistency in the league, and were held to their fifth home draw of the season, this time 2-2 against Llanrug United.

However, Borough had an incredible next two weeks, with key victories away to Pwllheli and Llanrug United, followed by beating Llandudno Albion to ensure their place in the Cookson Cup Final.

But Conwy’s inconsistency in the league then returned to haunt them, as they lost 2-1 to Nantlle Vale.

Conwy next faced their biggest 10 days in the club’s recent history, as they played in the FAW Trophy and Cookson Cup Finals.

FAW Trophy celebrations for Conwy

Up first was the prestigious FAW Trophy. After a closely-fought first half, the Tangerines ran riot against Rhos Aelwyd in a 15-minute period, and sealed a 4-1 victory at Airbus, prompting celebrations that had been lost at the club over the previous three years.

With one down, Borough looked to complete the second part of a treble, as Barmouth & Dyffryn United aimed to spoil the party in the Cookson final.

But this wasn’t the case at the Traeth, Porthmadog, as Boro took the spoils 3-0. It was also the Tangerines’ second Cookson Cup success of the decade.

Wins against Pwllheli, Llandyrnog United and Greenfield pushed Borough within touching distance of Llangefni, and they faced Llanrwst United in their next fixture, who were having a brilliant season themselves.

The Roosters took an early lead through Jack Whitley, but the Tangerines kept their composure, and outfought their opponents in the end, winning the game 4-1.

The victory put Conwy level on points with Llangefni, and with the latter having completed their season, Perry’s men knew a point from their final two matches would be enough to seal promotion back to the second tier of Welsh football.

And Conwy’s job was completed on May 2, as they thumped Llanberis for a second time in the season, this time 5-1 at the Morfa, clinching a fourth Welsh Alliance title in their history.

Conwy Borough were worthy champions, and they played their final game of the season on May 5.

There were certainly signs of a few hangovers on the pitch, as Borough didn’t turn up against a determined Llanrwst.

Although Corrig scored an absolute worldie to bring the score back to 2-1, Borough couldn’t find the equaliser, but it didn’t matter, as the party started straight after full time, with the Tangerines lifting their third piece of silverware of the season, the league title adding extra significance as Conwy would be playing in the Cymru Alliance the next term.

Corrig ended up top scorer with 43 league goals.

It is true to say Borough were given a helping hand in the league, as Llangefni also made many slip-ups across the season, losing games they expected to win, but Conwy took advantage and ended three points clear of the Anglesey side.

Some players were celebrating successive league title wins, whilst manager Thomas picked up his first title winners’ medal.

And the gaffer deservedly scooped the Manager of the Year award, but testament must also go to the players, as they managed to make a quick turnaround in the club’s fortunes, and ensure that they would once again be playing in the Cymru Alliance after a year’s absence.

Conwy have since enjoyed two solid seasons in the rebranded JD Cymru North, finishing comfortably mid table in 2018-19, and sixth last season.

Although Perry has now left, and director of football Warren Gibbs came and went, both made terrific strides at the Morfa, and the club will certainly look forward to the 2020/21 campaign with bags of confidence.

Conwy are certainly in a healthier position now than they were in May 2017!

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