WHILST the news of Jason Oswell’s departure from Newtown to the National League’s Stockport County will hit the Robins hard, I suppose it does give the other Welsh Prem strikers a chance to win the top scorer award after he won it last year.
But who are the main players who could give defenders nightmares this season?
AFEFootballNews’ Arron Evans picks out the top five stars who could scoop the “top scorer” prize come the end of the season.
Greg Draper (TNS)
Draper has been a truly prolific goal scorer in the Welsh Prem ever since his debut season back in 2011-12 and was runner-up to the magnificent Oswell last season with 15 goals in his 32 appearances.
By the end of last season, he had a record of 84 goals in 152 appearances in his seven year spell at TNS.
At 6ft 3′, Draper uses his height and strength to his advantage when it comes to taking on those Welsh Prem defenders and his tall figure allows him to win the ball frequently in the air. It’s also fair to say that’s he’s pretty decent with his feet too, possessing the ability to finish coolly.
The 27-year-old has bags of experience, having played down under in Canterbury United, Wellington Phoenix, Melbourne Knights and Team Wellington, before signing for Basingstoke Town in 2010-11 and of course then making the move to the Welsh Champions in the summer of 2011.
The Somerset born hitman, also represented New Zealand at the 2007 FIFA Under -20 World Cup in Canada. His senior international debut for the All Whites came in 2008 in a World Cup qualifier against Fiji and he was also included in the Under-23 squad for the Beijing Olympics.
Truth is, the now seven time WPL winner should probably be playing at a higher level as he seems to possess all the abilities and qualities to be able to do so. For the time being however, we should be grateful that we’re able to watch a player of his standard week in, week out.
Mike Hayes (Bala Town)
Pacey centre forward Hayes was fourth in the top goal scorers chart last season, having found the net 14 times in his 32 appearances for Bala as they secured a Europa League qualifier spot.
The former Connah’s Quay and Airbus man returned to the Lakesiders in 2014-15, having previously played at the club in the 2010-11 season and during his second spell there he has become vital to the team’s success.
Having also had experience of playing with both Heswall FC and Wrexham in the past, 29-year-old Hayes has the benefit of having played football outside of the Welsh Leagues and so uses that to his advantage out on the pitch.
His main attribute is said, by many pundits and fans alike, to be his wicked turn of pace which has proved a handful for many defenders during the strikers time in Wales’ Premier Division.
Hayes has had quite the journeyman career overall in the Welsh Prem, but looks to have well and truly settled back in at Maes Tegid and will no doubt be looking to guide them to a top four finish once again this season.
Alex Darlington (TNS)
If there’s one thing TNS never struggle to do, its score goals and Darlington was well and truly in amongst them last season, scoring 15 times in 32 appearances for the Welsh champions.
The 28-year-old had a tough start to his footballing career. He once suffered two broken legs within 12 months whilst he was a first-year professional at Wrexham. He came through the youth ranks at the Racecourse but despite battling his way back to fitness, was released at the end of the 2007/8 season.
After this however, things took a turn for the better when he signed contract terms for TNS in June of 2008, where he has remained since and has scored 92 goals for the club in his nine year spell with the Saints.
One of his finest moments came back in June 2011, when he scored both goals in his side’s 5-2 loss to Midtjylland (Denmark) in their Europa League qualifier match. Despite the scoreline, Darlington seemed to make a name for himself that.
Capable of playing as a striker or as a number 10, Darlington is always a danger to the opposition and is also TNS’ designated penalty taker due to his calm and collected presence from the spot.
Just like Draper, he too has six Welsh Prem titles to his name now and will no doubt be in good form once again this year as he looks to fire his club to glory once again.
Daniel Nardiello (Bangor City)
Experienced hitman Nardiello was a surprise signing for the Citizens back in August of last year and despite suffering a few injury set backs last season, he still managed to score 13 goals in 28 league matches for Bangor.
The 34-year-old made a memorable debut on August 12 in a 2–1 victory against Cefn Druids, as he scored his first goal for the club and instantly became a fans favourite.
Having first signed on as a trainee at Manchester United in 1999, Nardiello has since played for a vast number of clubs in the English leagues over the years, including the likes of Barnsley, QPR, Exeter, Rotherham and of course Bury, who were his last club before his move to Nantporth.
Nardiello was also capped once for the Wales senior side against New Zealand back in 2007.
Alongside the equally experienced Gary Taylor-Fletcher, he will no doubt bring some much needed experience to a Bangor City side that is currently undergoing an exciting transformation that could see the club turn professional in the near future.
If he can shake those injuries off this season, he could enjoy an even better campaign with even more goals to add to his name as the Citizens look to challenge the likes of TNS, Connah’s Quay and Bala Town for the title.
Scott Quigley (TNS)
24-year-old Quigley is my underdog pick of this bunch and I’ll explain just why I chose him.
While of course, the number of goals he scores will depend on whether or not he can get in to TNS’ starting eleven ahead of the likes of the aforementioned Draper and Darlington. However, there’s simply no denying that he has class.
His performances in the Saints’ Champions League qualifier matches, spared his club the embarrassment of losing to Gibraltarian side, Europa FC as he scored all four of their goals to help them win 4-3 on aggregate. For me, that was a sign of things to come from the player.
I have no doubts that if he’s give some game time this season, he will hit the back of the net often and beat his WPL best tally of nine goals in a season. His quality first touch and volley goal in the first leg against Europa was something that no ‘average’ player could have pulled off.
One to watch for the season ahead in my opinion.
WHILST these are the top five candidates in my opinion, there will obviously be many more players looking to push them all the way for that top scorer prize.
Nick Rushton (Newtown), Les Davies (Bala), Gary Taylor-Fletcher (Bangor), Ashley Ruane (Cefn Druids), Marc Williams (Llandudno) and Mike Wilde (Connah’s Quay) are certainly all players who are capable of reaching double figures and beyond.
Also you have to consider the midfield/wing players such as Adrian Cieslewicz (TNS), Liam Thomas (Carmarthen), Chris Venables (Bala), etc. who could all compete as well.
The loss of Oswell to Stockport sees a striker who has scored 51 goals in 91 matches for his side leave the Welsh Prem and so it is a hammer blow to the league as a whole, but on the same principal gets the league on the map as clubs from the English leagues are now beginning to turn to the Welsh Prem in their search to find top talent.
Airbus’ Tony Gray has gone to Warrington, John Disney of Connah’s Quay has gone to Altrincham and Bangor’s captain Gary Roberts is set to move to Southport. Whilst it is a shame to these players leaving our league, the underlying positive is that we are slowly generating popularity for the WPL by having these “bigger” teams come in and pay for them.