Before yesterday’s top-of-the-table showpiece it had already been long established that Michael Wilde was a Welsh Premier League great.
However, the striker’s stunning hat-trick for champions Connah’s Quay Nomads in a 4-1 away thumping of The New Saints raised his reputation just that little bit higher.
This was a true career peak. A moment in Welsh Premier history that will be filed in the draw marked ‘special’ and revived often for years to come.
People rarely score hat-tricks against TNS and much less often do they achieve it at Park Hall.
Yesterday’s three-goal feat was a masterclass in forward play from a genuine top-class striker.
Two perfectly-timed headers where he caught highly experienced defenders napping and then a razor-sharp close range finish from a straightforward, but beautifully worked three-man move.
If Wilde becoming only the fourth player in the Welsh Premier to reach 200 league goals this season was the icing on a delicious cake, then the treble which downed The New Saints was the perfect cherry on top.
So often these top-two battles, not just in the Welsh Premier but in all football, can be anti-climactic. Two teams with rock-solid defences cancelling each other out – avoid losing at all costs. Remember Man U 0 Man C 0 back in December? Absolutely dire.
But yesterday was different. Both sides went at it from the start with the big difference being finisher supreme Wilde.
Some will look at yesterday’s result and claim a ‘power shift’ is occurring.
The beginning of the end of an era where The New Saints dominated the national league so easily it had become almost a bore to watch.
For the past two seasons, Connah’s Quay have changed the record, winning a first title last campaign on the unweighted points-per-game method and now this term threatening to lift back-to-back championships.
However, a power shift? Maybe it’s just a little early to start shouting that from the rooftops.
Saints are still a good side, three points behind the Quay with five games apiece left.
The title race is not over yet; to say so would be an insult to the rest of the top six – Bala Town, Barry Town United, Penybont and Caernarfon Town.
Nomads lost at home to Penybont only recently, so there is still much football to play and maybe one or two more twists and turns in store.
What Andy Morrison’s side have done, however, is lay down a very conspicuous marker for the rest of the season.
They have truly shown what they are capable of, perhaps in a more dynamic way than ever before.
And that augurs well for their chances of being crowned champions again not just this season, but for further campaigns to come.
For so many years the biggest criticism of the Cymru Premier has been the lack of a title race.
Last season we had one – but the final verdict was dampened somewhat by the fact the campaign did not finish properly. There were still six rounds of games left before coronavirus had the final say.
This season it is going to be better. We look to be going the full route and it could well go down to the final round of matches.
As for Wilde, he is right up there now alongside Marc Lloyd Williams, Rhys Griffiths and Lee Hunt as the cream of the Cymru Premier net-finders crop.
Had he not spent three-and-a-half seasons with Fleetwood Town, Halifax Town and Chester between 2009-12, his WPL goals total could well be near second all-time highest marksman Griffiths’ 271 now.
Nonetheless, the 37-year-old evergreen has still graced our national league for 16 seasons and now has 206 goals to his credit.
Four more and he will pass Hunt’s landmark of 209 and become third in the top scorers chart.
During his Welsh Premier career, Michael has won a total of eight league titles, five Welsh Cups, five League Cups and the FAW Premier Cup.
He is also the WPL’s all-time highest goalscorer in Europe with seven.
Based on yesterday’s performance, he has plenty of football left in him. It will be up to him when he calls it a day.
Let’s hope that day will be some time coming yet, because when he plays like he did at Park Hall, Michael Wilde is something really special.
Michael Wilde career summary
Born on August 27, 1983, Michael Wilde first landed in the Welsh Premier League when he joined TNS (then known as Total Network Solutions) in 2002 from Poulton Victoria.
He spent six-and-a-half seasons with the Saints and was supporter’s player of the year in the 2004/05 and 2005/06.
Wilde joined Fleetwood Town in January 2009 before moving to Halifax Town and Chester where he netted 36 goals in 43 games before returning to TNS in June 2012.
He was voted Welsh Premier League Player of The Season in 2012/13 when he won the Golden Boot for the only time so far with his 25 goals.
Wilde signed for Nomads in June 2016 and made his competitive debut in the club’s first ever UEFA Europa League match against Norwegian side, Stabæk Fotball.
He has netted 153 Welsh Premier goals for TNS and 53 to date for Nomads. Add in goals in the various cups for both sides and the figure would be considerably higher.
Wilde averages a goal every two matches in all competitions for Nomads.
He bagged braces in both the JD Welsh Cup Final victory over Aberystwyth Town in 2018, and the Nathaniel MG Cup Final success against STM Sports in 2020.
Wilde was also a key member of the Nomads team which picked up the JD Cymru Premier title in the 2019/20 season.
Welsh Premier titles (8)
The New Saints – 2004–05, 2005–06, 2006–07, 2012–13, 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16
Connah’s Quay Nomads – 2019-20
Welsh Cup (5)
The New Saints – 2004–05, 2013–14, 2014–15, 2015–16
Connah’s Quay Nomads – 2017-18
League Cup (5)
The New Saints – 2005–06, 2008–09, 2014–15, 2015–16
Connah’s Quay Nomads – 2019-20
FAW Premier Cup (1)
The New Saints – 2006-07