Half-time report: Aberystwyth Town’s season so far

Aberystwyth Town striker Jordan Follows

Jordan Follows has been in fantastic form for Aber this season, scoring some crucial goals.

THIS season for Aberystwyth Town has been largely disappointing. Losing 3-1 to Newtown on New Years Day, their mid-Wales rivals have now done the double over ‘the Seasiders’.

It’s symptomatic of the inconsistency that has plagued the side all season. The inconsistency that fan, Matthew Wallace, spoke about when the club’s fans were asked about the side’s form. Their pre-season was disasterous, losing heavily to Goytre United, Porthmadog and Bow Street, despite making some high-profile signings in the summer. Stuart Jones, former Llanelli captain joined the side, as did Matty Collins who played for Neath last season. These two players were stand-out in the Welsh Premier League last season and hoped to improve Aber’s fortunes, along with Gavin Cadwallader, Glyndwr Hughes and James Wood who joined the side, after only beating relegation on the last day of last season.

However they had a tough start, with it taking five games for Aber to secure their win, against GAP Connah’s Quay in September. In that time, they had shipped 12 goals in two games, losing 7-1 to Bangor City in a horror show and 5-0 to Port Talbot, with both games away from home. However, even after beating ‘the Nomads’ their form was still slumping, letting in five more goals against Airbus UK Broughton at the Airfield.

They had a brief renaissance in form, with a superb 4-2 win over Afan Lido in front of a bumper crowd due to the Student night attracting a gate of 442. A draw against Prestatyn Town followed with hopes that their form had picked up, before they were thrashed 4-1 against The New Saints, with T.N.S’ counter-attacking prowess prevailing.

At this point, goalkeeper James Wood who was formerly on the books at Manchester City, was dropped for Mike Lewis. Lewis signed at the start of the season but rapidly fell out of favour. He then kept a clean sheet against Carmarthen Town at home, pulling off some spectacular saves to get Aber the win, including a late penalty save. A 3-2 defeat against Bala in monsoon conditions was a minor blip in this renaissance, with them then hammering Port Talbot 4-0. Jordan Follows grabbed two goals, with Aber beating Connah’s Quay in late November to give fans hopes of a top six finish.

Since this point they have scored once in four games, with them losing both derby games to Newtown, leaving them two points from safety on New Years Day. It’s doubtless that a club that size and history of Aber don’t deserve to be at this end of the league but, several terrible performances mean they are and unless they pick up in the next few games could face a very tough battle against relegation for the second year running.

James Wood in goal early in the season was an unmitigated disaster, whilst he might have been a good goalkeeper earlier in his career, he has either lost much of his talent or he arrived at Aber with his confidence low and it has now hit rock bottom. His removal from the first team line-up saw a brief revival in fortunes and Aber now look slightly better in goals but have still shipped large amounts of goals, including five against Rhyl in the Welsh Cup.

On the same note, several players were very slow to start, or, like Wood, have failed to live up to expectations. Stuart Jones, highly experienced in the Welsh Premier League, has failed to become the dominant centre half that Aber needed. Adam Worton who also arrived to play left back has so far failed to settle in and substandard performance in his position against Bangor City at Nantporth was one of many poor displays.

In midfield, the absence of Sean Thornton from the side, due to an injury in pre-season, has been greatly felt and the season may have been very different if he had been playing. Michael Walsh has failed to deliver on the promise that goes with his experience in the league and Josh MacAuley, who has often played as a winger in recent years for Aber, has been anonymous from countless games and his contribution has been minimal for many of them.

When The Courier asked Aberystwyth Town fans for any comments about the season so far, Daf Thomas mentioned about the “lack of a strikeforce, or at least a striker who can last for ninety minutes” and with Aber having scored the lowest goals in the Welsh Premier League -with only 23 scored, you can see why concern has been voiced over the issue. In fact, if you added the goal tally’s of Follows and Collins, it accounts for over half the goals that have been scored this season for Aber.

Despite Jordan Follows being in decent form, scoring eight goals so far, and club-legend Glyndwr ‘Paddy’ Hughes returning, the latter cannot be relied on at his age. With his fitness record taken into account, it is a dangerous tactic to rely on one player for goals.

Manager Tomi Morgan has often come under fire. Midway through the first half of the season, it looked likely that he might leave his role, with Aber rapidly sliding down the table. Yet, he has turned it around and has the support of the board. If he fails to keep Aber on a stable footing in the Welsh Premier League, it would not be a surprise to see the journeyman manager leave his role.

The return of talismanic Aber striker Glyndwr 'Paddy' Hughes has been a great success

The return of talismanic Aber striker Glyndwr ‘Paddy’ Hughes has been a great success

There are some positives for the next few months, including the splitting of the league following the fixture against T.N.S on 19th January at Park Hall. Declan Carroll, Collins and Hughes have all been superb signings for the side. Carroll, who formerly played for Haverfordwest and Tenby, shows great ball control at times, and with being relatively young, he could turn into a decent player for ‘the Seasiders’.

Matty Collins has also been a revelation and an early contender for Player of the Season. His impressive displays in midfield and handling of dead-ball situations are promising, with him scoring free-kicks against T.N.S and Prestatyn already. The signing of Mark Jones from Afan Lido is also a positive step and hopefully addressing the striker situation, with him grabbing a debut goal in the 3-1 defeat to Newtown at Latham Park.

It is hoped by many that Aber will continue their rise in the table, with their fans really deserving better than the relegation battles they faced last season and look to face this season.

Aberystwyth Student Media will continue to follow Aberystwyth Town’s progress in the Welsh Premier League this season and aims to bring you reports from matches.