Newtown and Carmarthen for the drop - Marc Lloyd Williams

Welsh Premier League

We have reached the halfway stage in the Welsh Premier League (WPL) and it's now time to split the league into the Championship and play-off Conferences.

The six teams in the Championship Conference are virtually assured of their WPL status for next season, the only issue that could change this is if any of them fail to achieve the domestic licence.

But any of the bottom six clubs in the play-off Conference can be relegated.

The top four clubs (Bangor, The New Saints, Llanelli and Neath) were what many would have predicted at the start of the season to be in the mix for the title.

Bala's surge into the top half hasn't been that much of a shock either as I previously mentioned in an earlier column they have made some shrewd signings this season and Colin Caton has now strengthened his squad even further with the addition of Airbus' top goalscorer Ian Sheridan.

I have seen Sheridan play a number of times this season and he has impressed me on every occasion with his movement and his eye for goal, he will link up well with Lee Hunt to provide the Lakesiders with more attacking options in their quest for European football next season.

The last team to qualify for the Championship Conference and who finished eleven points adrift of fifth placed Bala were Prestatyn; a team that I predicted would struggle and be amongst the bottom three!

Mark Aizelwood
Aizlewood is helping Carmarthen's fight against relegation

However, player-manager Neil Gibson has worked wonders on a shoe-string budget considering he lost the services of three influential players to rival clubs in the summer.

I've had the pleasure of training with Prestatyn over the past two summers and what I noticed was that Gibson and his backroom staff instil a hard working ethic into the squad, which is largely based on local talent and this talent has aided the club in securing a top six berth.

Bala and Prestatyn won't pick up many points in the second half of the season if their first half of the season's results are anything to go by.

Bala only picked up seven points against the current top six whereas Prestatyn only managed to pick up a couple of points with none coming against the top three.

In the play-off Conference, Airbus who narrowly missed out to Prestatyn, have subsequently lost the services of their director of football, Craig Harrison, who has moved into a similar role at TNS, and top goalscorer Ian Sheridan.

Airbus have moved quickly to replace Harrison with the appointment of ex-Wrexham striker Andy Preece from Northwich Victoria.

Preece will bring with him his trusted assistants Andy Morrison and Darren Ryan, who returns to the club after spending a short time with Airbus towards the end of last season.

Neither Preece nor Morrison have any WPL experience and therefore they will have to rely on the expertise of former Newtown manager Ryan and move quickly to replace Sheridan if they have any hope of finishing in a play-off place.

It will not be an easy task for the Wingmakers as both Port Talbot and Afan Lido are only three points behind them and no doubt they will fancy their chances of claiming that final play-off spot.

Don't write off Aberystwyth, who had a dismal first half to the season, as they have, in my opinion, the strongest squad out of the play-off contenders and if they can improve their disciplinary record they will certainly be in the mix come the end of April.

This leaves only two teams left to fight it out at the bottom, Newtwon and Carmarthen.

The latter have brought back Mark Aizlewood to aid Neil Summers and the win in their last match against Aberystwyth was crucial as it gives them a glimmer of avoiding relegation.

Newtown and Carmarthen look doomed and I believe the only thing that will spare them relegation is if any of the feeder league clubs fail to gain the WPL domestic licence and therefore be declined promotion.

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