Date: Thu 01 Mar 2018

Bangor City boss looks ahead to Penydarren showdown

Kevin Nicholson’s Citizens have been on an excellent run of form in recent weeks in the JD Welsh Premier League, but this weekend they take a break from the top six battle and welcome Penydarren to Gwynedd in the quarter-finals of the JD Welsh Cup.

WPL.Cymru caught up with the manager himself this week to reflect on his side’s remarkable progress, and to look ahead to Sunday’s showdown as well as some exciting news for two of the club’s youngest stars.

‘We’re well aware of Penydarren’s quality, the run they’ve been on in the competition, and the incredible run they’ve been on throughout the season too - they’ve not just done incredibly well in the Welsh Cup, but they’re currently unbeaten in their league too, which is a tremendous achievement.

‘I went to watch them play on Saturday: we certainly won’t be taking this side lightly and they’ll get the respect they deserve for reaching this stage, but there’s a lot of history in this competition for Bangor City. The club has won the competition eight times. It has been eight years now since we last won it, and five years since we last featured in a final, and this season we’re determined to go as far as possible and perhaps change some of those statistics.

‘We’re no strangers to what Sunday’s game will be like, we’ve become accustomed to playing teams from lower leagues who feed off that underdog mentality in recent months, as the two games we’ve already played so far have been against lower division teams where we’ve been the favourites. Sunday will be no different, we’re delighted to be at home and we are determined to win the game. We’ll make sure we’re well prepared and ready to give everything to get to the next round.’

’We’ve managed to find a better balance in our play as time has gone on this season.’

Sat in second place in the league table at present, two points ahead of Bala Town and a further point ahead of Connah's Quay, Bangor are in the midst of a fantastic battle with two of their biggest rivals for second position, with The New Saints 12 points ahead of at the top of the table.

Engaged in a battle of this nature with Colin Caton and Andy Morrison’s sides, it was imperative that Nicholson’s outfit got off to a good start and laid down a marker – with three wins in their first four Phase Two fixtures, it is certainly fair to say that they’ve done just that, and the manager noted how pleased he has been with particular aspects of his side’s performances.

‘We’ve only suffered three defeats in our previous 17 matches in all competitions, so that shows the consistency we’ve developed as a team and that’s an element that is vitally important throughout a season. It has been a very positive start to Phase Two, winning three out of four matches and keeping three clean sheets in the process.

‘As it stands, we’re conceding a lot fewer goals than the team did last year, and we’ve managed to find a better balance in our play as time has gone on this season. Last Friday was our 12th clean sheet, which is pleasing.

‘We currently sit in a strong position in second place, but there’s some tough games to come, lots of football still to be played and 18 points to fight for - all we can do is keep working hard and take each game as it comes.

‘We’re only four points off matching last season’s points tally, and one win away from equalling the amount of wins. With six matches now to play we need to make sure we finish the league season strongly in order to achieve our objectives.’

’I’ve really enjoyed watching how the team has found different ways to win games.’

10 months into his stint in the Bangor City hot-seat, Nicholson’s side have certainly shown progression under his leadership, but what have been the particular highlights for the manager?

‘I’ve tried to embrace the whole experience in my time at Bangor, I’ve really enjoyed working with the players who have been great, all of the management team and the staff at the club this year – that has certainly been a real highlight, my working relationship with all of those people. I have enjoyed the challenge of working with the media and of course it's a great feeling when you are able to bring a smile to the fans faces when you are winning games. They have been a brilliant support for the team home and away this season.

‘There have been other highlights too however, none more so than the way we beat the champions in our first game of the season. Going unbeaten throughout November and December, because we were starting to develop that incredibly important consistency. More recently I’ve really enjoyed watching how the team has found different ways to win games.

‘At the business end of the season, it isn’t always about playing attractive football, but more so about playing effective football that can pick up the points on a regular basis at a key time – I think we’ve certainly found the right balance in recent weeks and that has been very pleasing, without a doubt, a real highlight, and the players should take a massive amount of credit for that.’

'I’m absolutely delighted for both to be involved in the C International squad’

The announcement of a Wales C International fixture against England in Barry next month certainly caused a real stir of excitement across Welsh football, and in the weeks since the JD Welsh Premier League’s best and brightest Welsh talent has made its case for inclusion in Mark Jones’ squad.

This week ‘Jonah’ announced the group that would come together to face England, and Nicholson was very pleased for two of his own players who will be involved in the game.

‘I’m absolutely delighted for both to be involved in the C International squad – I think it will be an incredibly exciting game for them to be a part of and I’m really looking forward to seeing how that one goes at Barry on March 20th, and to see two representatives from Bangor City involved is a testament to both Guto and Danny’s hard work and to the work done by all at the cub this year.

‘It is a tremendous honour to represent your country at any level, Guto has represented the Under-18 Academy side internationally recently, so he’ll know what is expected of him, and I’m so pleased that he’s been given the opportunity to get involved in a senior level camp. Danny is fully deserving of his place in the squad, he’ll be really looking forward to this incredible opportunity and ready to take his chance.

‘It just shows the strength of the squad at Bangor, the quality of the players, and also the academy set-up at the club – it is becoming stronger and developing every year, so it is a huge credit to them. It is another highlight when you see young players developing as well as what they’re doing, and it is great to see them getting their just rewards.’

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