FORGET Manchester United and Chelsea, John Hulse predicts this year’s Welsh Premier title race is set to be one of the most exciting in years.
The Rhyl boss saw his side clinch a place in the lucrative Loosemores Cup final on Tuesday night with a convincing 4-0 victory over Porthmadog at Belle Vue.
More importantly, the Lilywhites are currently top of the Welsh Premier, a point ahead of The New Saints, Llanelli and Connah’s Quay.
Rhyl have two games in hand over their North Wales neighbours, but have played one more than Saints and two more than Llanelli, and Hulse’s priority now is to stay at the summit.
“To be honest, the last thing on my mind now is the Loosemores Cup final,” he said.
“Beating Porthmadog was a great result last night, and it’s a fantastic achievement to be in the final, but we’ve got to forget about that now. We’ve got a lot of league games to play before that.”
Rhyl’s return to league action starts with the visit of Carmarthen to Belle Vue tomorrow, and while the West Wales side are currently 10 points adrift of Hulse’s men, he isn’t ruling them out of a tilt at the title.
“I think it’s going to go right to the wire this season. It looks like it’s going to be one of the most exciting seasons for a few years. As well as TNS and Llanelli, Carmarthen and Aberystwyth are in there – there’s a lot up at the top who are within a couple of points of each other, and there’s a lot of teams below who are not far behind.”
Not all has gone well for Rhyl this season, however. Last month, Hulse had to make the difficult decision to release his long-serving skipper, defender Timmy Edwards, while new midfield signing Carl Clampitt failed to settle in the league and has moved on. A bid for former TNS man John Lawless failed when the player’s club Vauxhall Motors pulled the plug, although Hulse may consider another swoop for him in the summer.
The club are also out of two cups, having been shocked by Ton Pentre in the Welsh Cup and dumped out of the BBC-sponsored FAW Premier Cup at Port Talbot, two days after a televised 2-0 defeat at the hands of champions TNS.
The fact that the Premier Cup games were being shown on TV in a highlights programme the night of Rhyl’s Port Talbot defeat meant Hulse had no joy trying to get the fixture put back a day.
“The thing that riles us about the Premier Cup is that we had to play TNS on the Sunday and less than 48 hours later we were playing at Port Talbot,” he said.