Article by Tomos Wyn Jones
Picture by Damon Mead shows Prestatyn Town’s Jack Kenny scorings huge goal for his side.
DUE to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2019/20 JD Cymru North season had to come to an early end, with Prestatyn Town crowned champions. With clubs in that division set to feature in the Nathaniel MG Cup tomorrow, Tomos Wyn Jones takes a look back at what was a thrilling season.
Colwyn Bay took the momentous decision to move back into the Welsh pyramid, after 35 years in the English non-league system, Bangor City successfully appealed their point deduction penalty and Llandudno were relegated from the. JD Cymru Premier. Llangefni Town were promoted from the Welsh Alliance Division 1 and Corwen were promoted from the Welsh National League.
Here’s how it all unfolded …
Our featured game from the month of August comes from the Traeth, where Porthmadog hosted tangerines Conwy Borough on the opening game of the 2019/20 JD Cymru North season. Port were looking to improve on their impressive 3rd place finish in the previous season, whereas Borough wanted to push up the table to avoid a relegation battle, with the prospect of 4 of the 16 teams in the league being relegated at the end of the season. With new signing and recent island games gold medal winner Mel McGinness making his competitive debut for Port, it was the Tangerines who emerged victorious on a scorching day in Eifionydd. Sean McCafferey’s goal and the prolific Corrig McGonigle (above) being at the double, secured Conwy’s first 3 points of the campaign. Other featured games in August include Prestatyn Town-s 6-1 demolition of Corwen on the 23rd, Rhyl’s 2-1 victory over former newly promoted Llangefni Town, and newcomers Colwyn Bay’s 2-0 win against local rivals Llandudno FC.
Borough once again is our featured club here, as they travelled to Maesdu Stadium to face Llandudno. The visitors were coming into this game in fine form, following their thrashing of Llangefni by 4 goals to nil on matchday 4. And they continued that form into this game, though considerably closer and left it right until the death, following an 80-yard pass from man of the match Ben Heald to Corry Williams, whose shot took a wicked deflection off Tudno’s Anthony Marshall, and over keeper Shaun Pearson, to bag all three points. Goalkeeper Heald also made another considerable contribution in the 64th minute, by saving Manchester United’s Timothy Fosu-Mensah’s brother, Alfons’ penalty, which inevitably was the turning point in the game. Rhyl were victorious on the 10th, continuing their excellent start, by beating Ruthin Town 4-2. Borough, however, hit a brick wall on the 11th, as they were thumped by early high flyers Prestatyn Town 7-0, with Jack Kenny scoring 4 of the seasiders’ goals. Bangor City, who also fell to 7 goals against the seasiders, faced Llandudno in a thrilling game in September, with the black and whites 3-2 winners over the citizens at Nantporth. Bangor City had their takeover completed from VSM, with Francesco Serafino’s father, Dominico, an Italian singer, taking full control of the North West Wales side, and Stephen Vaughan Jr remaining as the manager.
Many teams were now settling into the tempo of the league, and Prestatyn Town’s 4-1 victory over Llandudno features as our October game of the month. The seasiders were cruising at the top of the league table, and their victory at Maesdu stadium strengthened their position at the top end of the table. Kenny bagged another goal in a man of the match performance that saw Tudno’s defence collapse within 5mins of the break. Colwyn Bay secured 5 wins on the bounce in October, standing out were their victories over multiple Welsh Premier League sides Rhyl and Bangor, by beating them 3-0 and 3-2 respectively. Porthmadog also looked in better form in the month of October, as they looked to push off the bottom of the table, with victories over Ruthin Town and Llanfair United. Following Vaughan Jr shock exit from the Citizens, former 1986 world cup winner Pedro Pasculli took over the reigns at Nantporth, stating to Sgorio “It is a pleasure to be here (Bangor)”.
November’s game of the month features a shock caused by Penrhyncoch, as they unlocked the key in Prestatyn’s fine form, and caused a 3-2 upset at Baker ground, with Rooster’s Ifan Burrel scoring the decisive winner in front of the cheering home fans. Although the seasiders slumped to defeat, they continued their 7-0 victory trend, by demolishing Llanfair United at Bastion Road. Bangor City were 2-1 victorious over rivals Rhyl on the 23rd, Citizens’ Simon Rea scoring an 89th minute late winner. Flint Town United were gradually moving up the table by the end of November, with an excellent, hard-fought victory over Rhyl at the Belle Vue.
In December we usually see a good proportion of games postponed due to bad weather, but in the winter of 2019, this wasn’t the case and credit to all of the ground staff across the whole league. December’s game of the month produced an 8-goal thriller at Llaneilian Road, as Colwyn Bay and Conwy Borough shared the points in a 4-4 draw. Craig Whelan scored the late equalizer for the Tangerines, as they recovered from being 4-1 down, scoring a late 86th minute goal, which produced incredible scenes in the Borough dugout. Llangefni were living dangerously at the wrong end of the table, and remained winless during the month of December, including defeats at home to Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant and Conwy Borough. However, life was looking on the up for Bangor City, as the Citizens were relishing under the new management of Pasculli, remaining unbeaten.
The new year started in thrilling fashion, with 27 goals scored across 7 games on New Year’s Day. And the match of the month came on this matchday, as another 8-goal thriller was produced at Belle Vue. Llanrhaeadr Ym Mochnant, who were having a fine season, produced another giant killing against the big boys, coming back from 3-0 down to beat the lilywhites 5-3 in an epic 2nd half comeback, Matthew Williams (on the right in pic above) with a brace for Mochnant. Prestatyn Town looked even more formidable in the new year, as they won every game, conceding only one goal in a tight 2-1 victory at Llaneilian Road against debutants Colwyn Bay. Llanfair United looked down and out for the majority of the month, though they produced a stunning 3-1 victory against fellow strugglers Llangefni Town at Cae Bob Parry on the 25th.
The sides were nearing the business end of the season now, with relegation looking like a potential big threat for several clubs. However, at the top end of the table, Neil Gibson’s Prestatyn side were edging closer towards promotion, looking likely to complete the same achievement they did back in 2017. Our game of the month for February features the Seasiders and Flint Town United in a top-of-the-table clash. With much at stake, Niall McGuinness’s side knew that three points was the minimum to gain from this game, but this wasn’t the case, as the Seasiders edged out the Silkmen at Bastion Road by a goal to nil. Bangor City produced two big wins in the month of February against Llandudno and Conwy Borough, and strengthened their spot in the top 5 of the league table, a position that looked distanced for the Welsh giants in pre-season. Buckley Town were just above the relegation zone, and looked further in danger on leap day as they lost a key relegation game against Port, leaving them 2 points from the drop zone.
March 7 was the final matchday before football was halted due to the coronavirus pandemic. There were no real shocks, with the top 5 Prestatyn, Flint, Colwyn Bay, Guilsfield and Bangor all victorious. All clubs in the relegation zone fell to defeat, giving clubs hovering above the relegation zone a big sigh of relief.
As we began to live in a society where social distancing was to be observed, and limited testing available for Wales, it looked increasingly unlikely that the 2019/20 season would resume. And this was the case unfortunately, as the FAW didn’t feel that the season could continue safely.
As a result, Prestatyn Town were crowned-worthy champions of the JD Cymru North 2019/20 campaign on May 19 – on a point per game basis. But the Seasiders’ triumph would count for nothing, as they were denied a tier 1 license for the 2020/21 JD Cymru Premier season, due to an issue with planning permission regarding a new TV gantry.
Second placed Flint Town United, who were 16 points behind the league leaders, were awarded promotion. The Silkmen, who were founding members of the League of Wales in 1993, are currently playing in the 2020/21 JD Cymru Premier campaign and are sitting in eleventh place in the table – with Neil Gibson having just taken over Niall McGuinness who was relieved of his duties at the club last week.
On another note, we heard some sad news on April 21 as the 142-year old Rhyl Football Club was wound up due to several financial issues, not helped by the coronavirus crisis. The 2-time Welsh Premier League winners failed to find a £175,000 investment, and were eventually administrated. However, on a brighter note, a new phoenix club called CPD Rhyl 1879 was formed.
Porthmadog FC were relegated for the first time from the tier 2, whilst Corwen and Llanfair United joined them. Llangefni Town, who finished 0.10 points ahead of Porthmadog on the points per game basis, survived the drop.
The 2020/21 has looked bleak for the Welsh football pyramid, with only the JD Cymru Premier only being able to play competitive football. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel; following a trial run of friendlies, Tier 2 has been granted elite status by Sport Wales, with the league restricted to 15 games for the season, though, promotion and relegation will remain in place.
It will be interesting to see how this unusual season will play out, but one thing is for sure, football will be greeted well across the whole of Wales!