Football: Gap Connah’s Quay secure promotion to Welsh Premier League with win over Cefn Druids
NOMADS are heading back to the top flight!
Welsh Premier League founder members Gap Connah’s Quay ended their two-year absence from Welsh football’s elite competition in fine style on Saturday, completing their successful defence of the Huws Gray Alliance title with a 2-0 victory over Cefn Druids at Deeside Stadium.
Although player-boss Mark McGregor knows it will be tough, he spoke confidently about Nomads’ ability to cope at a higher level next season.
“Most promoted sides go up on the crest of a wave,” he said. “Our crest is a bit bigger than most though, as it has built over two years.”
Having been relegated in 2010 as part of a massive reorganisation of the Welsh Premier which saw it reduced to 12 teams, Nomads were denied promotion last season despite winning the Alliance as they failed to secure an FA of Wales domestic licence, an assessment of facilities and standards.
But this season they have a licence and three points against Druids, thanks to a first-half strike from 22-goal Alliance top-scorer Gary O’Toole and a fine effort from wonderkid substitute Rhys Healey with five minutes remaining, secured a 2-0 victory and promotion with a game to spare.
McGregor avoided the curse of the manager of the month award, having been named the recipient for March prior to the game. He said that despite Nomads’ long wait to return to the top table it was joy, not relief, that was the overriding emotion.
“When Rhys scored that second goal we knew then that the job was done and we were just waiting for the whistle,” he said.
“Everyone has worked so hard and the feeling of achieving our goal meant everybody was overjoyed and nothing else mattered.”
McGregor admitted that he expected this campaign to be a lot harder than last year but praised his squad for their commitment.
“When we were told we could not go up in 2011, I expected to lose a lot of my guys,” he said.
“But most stayed and I was able to add to the squad and strengthen. I told them this season would be a lot tougher, that it was more difficult to defend the title than to win it, but they stuck with the club and I am so proud of them.”
The player-coach has only just started planning for next season, as he wanted to stay focused on the current campaign until Nomads’ fate was sealed.
But he has assured fans that he will stay on and encouraged them to join him as the club attempts to re-establish itself as a force in the Welsh Premier League.
“I will definitely be here next season,” he said. “Jay Catton will be too, after all his important work.
“This season I’ve used nine players from the academy, including Rhys Healey who scored his first senior goal at 16 for the club, and that is a big part of the bright future this club has.
“We will look at the squad and talk to players in the summer and it is going to be hard next season, but we’ve seen a lot of games in the Welsh Premier and we know we can compete.
“What we need now is for Connah’s Quay to gather around the club and get more fans through the doors next season to push us on against some of the big teams we will encounter in the top division.”
Nomads will receive the Huws Gray Alliance trophy on Saturday when they travel to face Penycae in their final game of the season (2.30pm).