Greg Draper and Michael Wilde are two of the most prolific strikers in the recent history of the JD Welsh Premier League, but on Sunday (5 May) afternoon the pair go head-to-head for the prize of winning the JD Welsh Cup.
Connah's Quay vs The New Saints
JD WELSH CUP FINAL
Wilde scored a brace for Connah's Quay Nomads in the final last year as his side claimed the trophy for the very first time with a 4-1 win over Aberystwyth Town.
“Last year, I don’t think we could have written it any better really,” said Wilde to FAW.cymru. “Not just on a personal level, but from the team’s perspective as well. The club has continued to grow year-on-year, and this year is no exception. I’d love to replicate the outcome of last year’s final this time too, but we know it's going to be a tough challenge.”
And it is the challenge of Wilde's former club that stands between him and his side retaining the trophy when the two teams meet at The Rock this weekend. With the JD Welsh Premier League title already secured for the Saints, Wilde has a clear appreciation for their status in the domestic game.
“We’ve closed that gap this year and during the course of the season,” he added. “It's going to take something special to surpass them at the moment, because of everything they’ve got in place, but I do believe that there is enough quality in this side and the ambition and the drive to challenge them in the future.”
Greg Draper has once again claimed the JD Welsh Premier League Golden Boot, and has established himself as one of the most consistent goalscorers in the top-flight since he arrived at Park Hall in 2011. But while an eighth successive league title is an achievement to be proud of, Draper is more than aware that his side have failed to apply their domestic dominance to the JD Welsh Cup in recent seasons.
“It has been hugely disappointing not to win this competition for the last two years,” explained Draper to FAW.cymru. “This is the trophy that we’ve gone the longest without winning and we want to make sure we put that right.
"It's a very special competition, every game is a one-off and you come up against teams you’re not used to competing against. Seeing what it means to the smaller teams as well is when it really hits home, what it means to lower league clubs to compete against WPL sides for a trophy, and to come out on top in a competition involving so many teams is very special too.”
A former team-mate of Wilde at The New Saints, Draper was keen to highlight the qualities of a player he often found himself in direct competition with for a starting place.
“Mike and I had a really good relationship when we played together and we still got on really well to this day,” he added. “Whenever we play against each other now we have a good catch-up before and after the match. I’d say probably out of all the strikers I’ve come up against or played with he’s the one I have the most respect for. He’s obviously a great professional and has had a great career, and he’s very good at what he does too.
“I wouldn’t say we’re similar players, but we’ve always have a good relationship and whilst he was with me at TNS he was always the first choice, but because I had so much respect for him I found it easier to take being on the bench and being patient in waiting for my chance.It’s a team sport at the end of the day and luckily I’ve had a lot of chances whether I’ve started games or come off the bench to keep the goals flowing.
"Over the last few weeks I’ve been back in the starting line-up more regularly and probably been in some of the best form I’ve ever been in during my time at the club. I know I’m always going to score goals, so I’ve just to be patient and take my chances when they come.”
Read more from both Michael Wilde and Greg Draper in FC Cymru – The official matchday magazine of the JD Welsh Cup Final.