County By County: Looking at the Best Teams in Each Welsh County – Part 5

Introduction

The origin of this domestic football series comes from a very straightforward question that was asked to me on Twitter by Aled Roberts (@capaled on Twitter):

Who are the best Welsh clubs from each county?

Not knowing the answer off-hand, I decided to do some research to discover who are currently the best performing clubs from each county in Wales in terms of their respective league position and placement during the 2021-22 season, whilst also making some references to which teams were the most historically successful clubs in that county also.

I have decided to split the country up into several parts to make it more manageable for me to write up, especially considering I have been struggling with “writer’s block” recently. Therefore in this fifth part, I will only focus on the three southern counties of Wales, with the other counties of Wales coming in later blogs. To see the other parts of the County By County series, the links can be found below:

[NOTE: All positions mentioned below are defined as of 24th May 2022]

Bridgend County Borough: Penybont

The Bridgend County Borough / Bwrdeistref Sirol Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr is more known for its successful rugby teams than its football teams in sporting terms, however, Bridgend Town was historically one of the stronger teams in Welsh football, with their zenith being in the late 1970s. The Fish were one of the teams who competed in the English football pyramid, and achieved great success by winning the Southern Football League in the 1979-80 season – a league that the side initially played in during the early 1920s. Despite this history, it would be another club from the county that would be a founding member of the League of Wales – Maesteg Park. The Park spent three seasons in the top flight, finishing in fifteenth position in the inaugural League of Wales season, before avoiding relegation the following season due to Haverfordwest County resigning from the league. Sadly, their stay in the League of Wales ended in the 1994-95 season when they finished bottom of the table, having won just two games all season and earning 12 points, scoring just 23 goals, and conceding a whopping 113 goals. Alas, Maesteg Park has never returned to the top tier of Welsh football since, and currently plays in the fifth-tier South Wales Alliance Division One league.

The 1992-93 League of Wales table.
[IMAGE: Wikipedia]

The best-performing team from Bridgend County Borough is the only team competing in the Cymru Premier – Penybont FC. Penybont originated from a 2013 merger between Bridgend Town and Bryntirion Athletic, with the new club playing at the latter’s Bryntirion Park home and adopting the Welsh name for the town (Pen-y-Bont ar Ogwr). After six years of the merged club competing in the Welsh Football League Division One, they finally achieved promotion to the Cymru Premier by winning the WFL Division One title in 2018-19. Under the management of legendary WPL goalscorer Rhys Griffiths, the club has continued to progress year after year. They successfully avoided relegation in their debut season by finishing in tenth position, before surprising everyone the following season with a superb fourth-place finish.

The 2021-22 Cymru Premier Championship Group table.
[IMAGE: Flashscore]

For the 2021-22 season, Penybont confirmed their position as one of the best clubs in the county with another top-six finish. Initially, they looked as if they could improve on their fourth-place finish of the previous season, but a sluggish end to the season (with culminated in a second-string squad suffering a horrendous 0-11 loss to Bala Town) resulted in a sixth-place finish in the Cymru Premier table, albeit, just three points from the fourth spot. Unsurprisingly, their focus was on the Welsh Cup final, with the club becoming the first Bridgend team to reach the final of the national cup competition. Sadly, Bont were unable to lift the historical trophy, and despite a spirited comeback in the second half, they lost the final 2-3 to The New Saints. Suffering a hangover after the cup final defeat, they also failed to progress to the end of season Play-off final when they were heartbreakingly defeated by Flint Town United in the semi-final stage. The Bont missed a penalty in extra-time with the scores drawn at 1-1, and would suffer further spot-kick failures in the resultant shootout with their opponents progressing to the play-off final 3-1 on penalties after Penybont failed to convert their second, third, and fourth penalties.

The next best performing club from the county borough was Cefn Cribwr, who finished as runners-up in the fourth-tier South Wales Alliance League Premier Division. From their 30-game schedule, the Riders accumulated 63 points in total and finished 13 points behind runaway leaders Baglan Dragons but crucially a point ahead of third-placed side Canton Liberal. Cefn Cribwr’s second-place finish, as well as a successful application of obtaining a Tier 3 licence meant the club earned a promotion to the Ardal Leagues for the following season.

The 2021-22 South Wales Alliance League Premier Division table.
[IMAGE: South Wales Alliance League Website]

Vale of Glamorgan: Barry Town United

The highest-ranked club based within the Vale of Glamorgan / Bro Morgannwg that was playing in the Welsh football pyramid for the 2021-22 season was Barry Town United. Under its previous guise as Barry Town, the club enjoyed a varied and successful history with the majority of its history being played in the Southern League of the English football pyramid, and the club winning its first Welsh Cup way back in 1955 with a 4-3 replay victory over Chester FC. However, with the advent of the League of Wales in 1992, and the decree by the FAW to force all Welsh clubs playing in the lower leagues of England back to Welsh football, Barry was part of the “Irate Eight” and initially refused. However, in 1993, the club performed a surprising U-turn decision and returned back to Welsh football, quickly gaining promotion to the LoW in the following year, as well as winning their second Welsh Cup as a second-tier club by beating Cardiff City 2-1. This would be the start of a highly successful period for the club as they became the dominant side within Welsh football, winning seven league titles, seven Welsh Cups, five Welsh League Cups between 1994 and 2003, as well as a FAW Premier Cup in 1999. Sadly, financial issues saw the club suffer relegation in 2004, and the malaise continued due to reoccurring problems with a troublesome owner.

The nadir for Barry Town came when the owner attempted to withdraw the club from the Welsh Football League in a last act of sabotage. As a result, the supporters took control of the club and changed the club’s name to Barry Town United to emphasise their unity and endeavor as a supporters’ owned club. Unfortunately, because of the controversial actions of their now former owner, the FAW shockingly ruled that the club had to restart from the fourth tier of the Welsh football pyramid. Nonetheless, within the space of four years of the controversial ruling, and under the astute management of Gavin Chesterfield, the club finally returned back to the top flight in 2017 when they became Welsh League Division One champions. Since their return, the Linnets became an established team within the Welsh Premier League/Cymru Premier, with the club’s fairytale, resurrection story culminating in a third-place finish in the 2018-19 season and qualifying for Europe.

The Championship Conference of the 2018-19 Championship Conference
[IMAGE: Wikipedia]

It would seem the ‘Hollywood story’ of the previous seasons has returned back to some kind of reality as the 2021-22 season was a difficult one for Barry Town United. After an unconvincing start to the season, the club continued to struggle in a fiercely competitive bottom-six group, and was just unable to stop the slide into the relegation zone. Barry Town United underperformed by finishing the season in eleventh position with just 31 points earned from their 32-game schedule. Their goal tally of just 31 goals identified one of their main issues with the season (numerous red cards were also another issue), with Barry having the second-lowest attack in the league.

The 2021-22 Cymru Premier Playoff Group table.
[IMAGE: Flashscore]

With Barry Town United ending their five-season tenure in the Cymru Premier, it looked as if another club from the county was going to replace them in the top flight. Llantwit Major is a club that has made huge strides within Welsh football in recent times, following a somewhat similar journey to Barry Town United, by rapidly progressing upwards through the leagues. They were in the fourth-tier of Welsh football as recently as the 2016-17 season before quickly rising through the southern leagues. The crowning glory of their rapid ascent came during the 2021-22 season when Major fended off the challenges of both Briton Ferry Llansawel and Pontypridd Town to clinch the Cymru South title. Their 24 victories from their 30-game season resulted in a 74-point haul, and they finished five points ahead of runners-up Pontypridd. Regrettably, the club was unable to earn a Tier 1 licence from the FAW, even after an appeal to the initial decision, resulting in Llantwit Major being unable to gain promotion as champions. This meant that second-placed Pontypridd advanced to the Cymru Premier instead after they had successfully appealed and were awarded a Tier 1 licence for the 2022-23 season (ironically confirming Barry’s relegation from the Cymru Premier at the same time).

The 2021-22 Cymru South table.
[IMAGE: Wikipedia]

Cardiff: Cardiff Metropolitan University

Despite the success of Cardiff City in the English pyramid in recent times, there have been a few clubs from the capital city to have played in the Welsh top league since the formation of the national league in 1992. Inter Cardiff was the only club from Cardiff/Caerdydd to take part in the inaugural League of Wales season and they enjoyed a successful period when they finished as runners-up in the first two editions of the LoW. They repeated the feat in the 1996-97 and 1998-99 seasons under the sponsored name ‘Inter CableTel’, as well as becoming the first Cardiff-based club (other than Cardiff City) to win the Welsh Cup when they won the 1999 final by beating Carmarthen Town on penalties. The club reverted back to its original name in the 1999-2000 season but would eventually suffer relegation from the top flight for the first time in its history during the same season. It would be the final season under that guise when the club followed up relegation with a merger with the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff’s football team to create UWIC Inter Cardiff.

The 1993-94 League of Wales table.
[IMAGE: Wikipedia]

The other Cardiff-based team to appear in the Welsh Premier League was Cardiff Grange Harlequins, who played in the highest tier of Welsh football during the 2005-06 season. Sadly, their season was hampered from the start due to a lack of finances and key players which resulted in the club relying on reserve and youth players throughout the season. Unsurprisingly the Quins remained rooted to the bottom of the table and were relegated after a single season. Unfortunately, the club folded in 2015 having eventually dropped down to the Cardiff & District League, and despite an attempt of reforming the club in 2020 as Grangetown Harlequins, they too had to withdraw from the Cardiff & District Division Three league midway through the 2021-22 season.

The 2005-06 Welsh Premier League table.
[IMAGE: Wikipedia]

For the 2021-22 season, there was a club from Cardiff competing in the Cymru Premier, and thus it was the highest-ranked side from the city-county. Cardiff Metropolitan University (commonly known as “Cardiff Met”) enjoyed a rapid rise through the pyramid before winning the Welsh League Division One title and earning promotion to the Welsh Premier League in 2016. Cardiff Met is the same club as the aforementioned UWIC Inter Cardiff, with the football team changing its name in conjunction with the higher education facility becoming a standalone university and changing its name accordingly. The university team, which uniquely only has players from its students or alumni in its squad, has consistently been a mid-table side since its debut season in 2016-17, but reached the European playoff final in each of its first three seasons. Cardiff Met lost to Bangor City and Cefn Druids in the first two playoffs, but managed to overcome Bala Town in their third final to qualify for the UEFA Europa League.

In their sixth consecutive season in the Cymru Premier, Cardiff Met achieved yet another mid-table finish when they ended the season in seventh position – the third time in four seasons they have concluded their league campaign in that league spot. From their 32-game season, the Met earned 42 points which was just enough to top the Playoff Group, and finish 2 points ahead of eighth-placed Aberystwyth Town. Alas, the Archers were unable to progress to their fourth playoff final when they were defeated in the playoff semi-finals by fourth-placed Caernarfon Town by a 0-1 scoreline.

There were no Cardiff-based clubs in the Cymru South for the 2021-22 season, so the next best performing Cardiff club was playing in the third-tier Ardal South West league. That club was Cardiff Draconians who managed to accumulate 57 points from their 30-game season and finish up in fourth position in the league – 11 points adrift from the Ardal Southern Playoff qualification berth. However, the Dracs did manage to place higher in the table than their city rivals Caerau (Ely), who were in the eighth spot in the Ardal SW table.

The 2021-22 Ardal South West table.
[IMAGE: Wikipedia]

So that completes the initial delve into finding out which clubs are currently the best teams from each of the three southern counties of Wales. The next part of the series will look at the counties of the South Welsh Valleys to find out which clubs are currently the most successful in those counties.

Diolch!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s