THE mind games have begun ahead of the season’s biggest match so far.
This Sunday the television cameras will be at Stebonheath Park to see Llanelli entertain The New Saints, who lead the league on goal difference alone from their hosts.
And while Llanelli manager Peter Nicholas earlier this week insisted the showdown won’t decide the destiny of this season’s title, Ken McKenna says his Saints side don’t fear their opponents any more than they do the other 16 teams in the league.
The TNS boss said yesterday: “It’s only three points, the same as any other game. Obviously it’s important in terms of them being another full-time team and being level on points with us, but it’s not going to decide anything. It’s not even Christmas yet.
“If we win, we only get three points, if they win they get three points. It’s not the be-all and end-all. There’s no pressure at all on the lads to win and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s on the telly, so the lads will want to go and give a good account of themselves and play some good football.”
Before the start of the season McKenna predicted this season’s title race would be the closest for years, and so far he is being proved right. Although his champions top the table at the moment, they had to play catch-up to Llanelli after losing their first two league games – as many as they lost during the whole of last season – to Newi Cefn Druids and Aberystwyth Town.
“The league gets better every year,” said the manager. “We’ve won the league three times on the trot and that makes it difficult. People are plotting how to beat us – you’re everybody’s cup final so they raise their game for you.
“You only have to look at Chelsea – they won the Premiership two seasons in a row but the third year was beyond them.
“It’s an unbelievable achievement by my lads to win the title three years in a row, and you know come the fourth year it’s going to be even harder.”
There was bad news for the Saints earlier this week when strikers Ronnie Morgan and Michael Wilde were both ruled out for two months with back and shoulder injuries respectively. Morgan potted an amazing 180 goals in four years for Cammell Laird before joining Saints in the summer but has had a multitude of injury since and has made just two substitute appearances this season. Wilde, meanwhile, is the mid-Wales club’s top scorer of the campaign with eight goals from 13 starts.
“What a lot of people don’t realise is that we’ve brought in a proven goalscorer in Ronnie Morgan who’s hardly played for us because he’s been injured,” said McKenna. “Now Ronnie and Michael Wilde are out for two months and that’s a big blow for us.”
While most of the attention on the Welsh Premier this weekend will focus on the Stebonheath Park clash, last year’s second-placed team Rhyl host bottom club Porthmadog tomorrow looking to capitalise on any slip-up by the league’s two full-time titans. John Hulse’s side are seven points behind the joint leaders, but McKenna says the Lilywhites are still in the title hunt.
“They’re a good club and I think they’re doing really well,” he said. “They’re a good side with a good manager and coach, and they’re right up there only a few points behind. They’re definitely still in the title race.”
l SUNDAY’S match is live on S4C (1pm)