The home team? Bala Town – the European heavyweights. The visitors to Maes Tegid on Sunday evening will be Cardiff Met, contesting their third straight Playoff Final and hoping to take that final step into the Europa League.
We caught up with Will Evans, who has been one of the stars for Cardiff Met in midfield this season, to discuss what Sunday’s game means to him.
“I guess what we’re looking forward to in many ways is proving a point, that we can go that extra step and qualify for Europe. Over the last two years we’ve had those experiences of being in these finals and unfortunately not been successful.
“Being in our first final against Bangor City was an important experience for us, and then last year we were absolutely gutted about losing to Cefn Druids, but what those experiences mean is that we’re going into this year just that little bit more prepared.
“We haven’t gone through it in the top six as we have done the last couple of years, so that’s been a bit different for us, but we’re looking forward to the weekend now and hopefully being able to put things right and prove a few people wrong and show that we can actually do it.”
With one of the league’s strongest sides set to miss out on Europe this weekend there is a fair amount of pressure on the result for both sides to say the least.
With pressure comes a sense of occasion, of course, and this weekend is a monumental occasion in the JD Welsh Premier League calendar, but the 21-year-old Evans insists his side can’t get drawn in by that and have to focus on playing the game in the way that’ll best benefit them.
“If we’ve learnt anything from the previous experiences we’ve had I think it’s that we need to learn to play the game itself and not the occasion, really, and that’s something the manager said to us in the changing room before the Caernarfon game in the semi-final actually.
“In that game at the Oval it would have been easy to go there and play in front of 1,500 fans who were rooting for the other team from start to finish and get caught up in it all, but we didn’t and we can carry that momentum going forward.
“Being in those positions the last two years and losing, it’s something that we want to put right this year – playing in the Europa League, that’s something everyone at the club wants to be able to say we’ve done and it would be a huge reward for everything this club has done.
“We know we can do it, we’ve just got to go out there and secure that result now.
“Bala are a team that has historically had a decent record against us, but in the last year or so we’ve been able to overcome that and find a way to get results against them even though they have troubled us in the past.
“Individually they have got some very good players, but maybe as a collective that’s where we can look to exploit any weaknesses and impose our game on them. Our togetherness, what we do and what we bring to the table as a team could well be the difference on the day, and that’s certainly what we’re hoping for.
“We know they’ve got players who are individually very strong, and they’re players who do possess that quality to be able to turn a game on it’s head when things aren’t going there way, so we’ll have to be at our best as a team to get a result in this final.”
No strangers to accomplishing significant feats, Met’s goal has always been to see how far they can push the envelope and how often they can accomplish new feats. Met Manager Christian Edwards can often be heard saying that his team has never arrived, in a manner that keeps his team always focussed on the next challenge.
Europa League qualification – outside JD Welsh Premier League survival – has been the club’s biggest aim for the last three years, and Evans outlined what ticking that box would mean for him and the club.
“We want to play our game and if we can do that then we’ve got a good chance against anyone – we’ve beaten every team in the league after that result against Caernarfon, so that just shows that when we do things right we can trouble any team, and we’ll be going into Sunday looking to do the same.
“People can talk about what’s at stake and so on but it is important that we just go into Sunday and play the game and not the occasion.
“Ever since I’ve played for Cardiff Met it has always been our goal to see how far we can go, but it would be a massive achievement for each and every one of us to make it into the Europa League. None of the boys get paid or anything like that, it would mean so much to all of these people who have put in so much hard work, and it would be a fitting achievement for everyone.
“I’m very proud of everyone that we’re in this position again, and hugely thankful to everyone that has helped us get here. Our families travel all over the country to support us, and for all of those little things we want to do something to give back – this would be the icing on the cake.”
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