The JD Welsh Cup returns this weekend with Hakin United and Pill AFC championing the cause for the underdog as the lowest-ranked teams left in the competition as the 32 remaining clubs look to progress.
“It's refreshing to be the underdog because there's a lot of pressure on us as at our level and we're expected to win every game,” explained Hakin United manager Scott Davies to FAW.cymru this week. “There's always heads turning when we lose, so it's nice to experience being the second favourites for a change.” The only Tier 5 team left in the competition, Hakin United host JD Cymru North high-flyers Holywell Town on Saturday having already defeated Cwmamman United, Penlan and JD Cymru South pair Afan Lido and Taffs Well to reach the 3rd Round.
“We went to Afan Lido and weren't really sure what we were in for in terms of the standard,” Davies explained. “I could see within 15 minutes that we were in a completely different game to what we were used to and we had to change it. But I knew we had the ability and we managed the game well, and that definitely gave us the belief for the next game against Taffs Well. If we had played Taffs Well away it might have been a different proposition, but at home we really had the belief.”
Currently fourth in the Manderwood Pembrokeshire AFL Division One table, progressing in two cup competitions means that Davies's side have only played four league games this season. “There's going to be a fixture backlog but we knew that when we decided to enter these competitions at the start of the year, and we won't complain about that. A home draw is massive for us and it's a massive thing for the club. This Welsh Cup run started as a pre-season exercise and now we're just thinking about how far we can go. The fact that we're home enhances our chances of progressing even further and we're taking it very seriously.”
Elsewhere, a goal from veteran striker Lewis Sommers and a penalty from captain Ben Lawrence earned Pill AFC a famous 2-1 victory over JD Cymru Premier side Cardiff Met in the last round of competition. The side from the Autocentre Gwent Premier Division (Tier 4) now head to JD Cymru South outfit Pontardawe Town on Saturday and will be confident of causing another upset having also won eight of their ten league games this season while, like Hakin United, also continuing to progress in the Dragon Signs Amateur Trophy.
It was in 2018 that Pill AFC merged with Newport YMCA to form Pill YMCA, with the team reverting to their original name this summer. A club with a strong community culture, Sommers will have fond memories of the JD Welsh Cup as he was part of the Newport YMCA side that famously reached the semi-finals of the competition back in 2007/08 before they were eliminated by eventual winners Bangor City. Impressive scalps against Carmarthen Town, Llangefni and Welshpool saw the club make headlines that year, and the club would love to repeat that achievement as they play their fifth match of the competition at Parc Ynysderw on Saturday.
It's no surprise to see that teams from Tier 1 and Tier 2 dominate the JD Welsh Cup fixtures this weekend, but another interesting tie takes place at The Bont on Friday night as Penydarren Seniors BGC take on Trethomas Bluebirds. Both teams compete in Tier 3 and progressed with victories over Swansea University and Haverfordwest County respectively. The latter result made headlines for the Bluebirds against the club from the JD Cymru Premier with Levi Rees scoring both goals in another of the shock results of the last round.
All four clubs find themselves in illustrious company this weekend with a place in the last 16 there for the taking, and for Hakin United, the visit of Holywell Town will prove to be a memorable occasion for many years to come. “It's hard to understand just how massive this is for us unless you're involved in the hub of the community and the club,” Davies added. “We love everything about this weekend and everyone will be made to feel welcome. Regardless of the result it will be a special day for everybody involved with Hakin United.”