The 2023-2024 football season starts in earnest for some on Saturday with the first qualifying round of the JD Welsh Cup.
The early rounds are regionalised and Knighton Town and Hay St Marys clash in a local derby at Bryn-y-Castell.
On last season’s form, Hay will start the tie as favourites but Knighton will be keen to cause an upset. Knighton, with Harry Stokes at the helm, are boosted by the return of former player-manager, Mark Jones but the influential Kieran Dovey, the MMP Central Wales League (South) Player of the Year, has signed for Hereford Lads Club while goalkeeper, Jamie Griffiths has switched to arch rivals, Presteigne St Andrews.
Louis Scott has joined the Radnor Robins from Ludlow Town and he was on the scoresheet as Knighton completed their pre-season with an impressive 5-0 win at Carno.
Hay manager, Gareth Jenkins says The Saints have had a good pre-season and expects to include a number of his new signings against Knighton.
Jack Cook is however missing while Jack Cripps could be out for three months through injury. Hay’s new signings are goalkeeper, Matt Morris, Luke Limbrick, Dave Thomas, James Jeffreys and Bean Warry. Tom James has also returned to the club while Steve Goodwin is back after a spell out of the game.
Builth Wells, from the Ardal League North East, host last season’s MMP Central Wales (North) League Champions, Kerry and it could prove a tough opener for The Bulls who lost 2-1 at Dolgellau in the first qualifying round last season.
Lee James and Ryan Powell were sent off that day and are therefore suspended on Saturday but Builth Wells have plenty of defensive options following the arrival of Joe Wozencraft, from Rhayader Town while Adam Farmer is also back at The Lant Field after one season with Tier Two side, Llanidloes Town.
Builth will have a new goalkeeper in place following Zeke Vivian’s departure while Danny Hall is set for his debut following a shock move from arch rivals Llandrindod Wells. Danny Ives and Rhys Thomas should figure despite missing pre-season but Ollie Woods is ruled out.
Kerry have strengthened with the signings of Drew Cook, Ian Probert and Jamie Huxley.
Llandrindod Wells are away at Ardal League rivals, Dolgellau aiming to get off to a winning start. The Spa are likely to be very much unchanged this time with just one in and out on The Broadway. Llandrindod will be disappointed at losing Danny Hall, who was Gareth Jones’ Manager’s Player of the Year, to Builth but moving in the other direction is Will Cleaton, who has returned following a long and successful spell with The Bulls. They have retained everyone else with Jack Evans, who was in the Ardal North East League Team of the Seasonm staying with the club. Ashley Jones, part of one of the best central defensive partnerships in the Ardal Leagues with captain, Shaun Nicholls, misses the first couple of games as does midfielder, Bob Kear. Kieran McCarley is available having missed much of last season through injury while Llandrindod were hoping to announce a new signing this week.
Radnor Valley welcome Waterloo Rovers to The Bypass with ex-Westfields midfielder, Dale Richards set for his competitive debut for The Goats. Elliot Morris, who led Radnor to the MMP Central Wales (South) League title last season is taking a step back to concentrate his efforts on the playing side with Adam Jones named as Radnor’s new manager. Radnor were playing a friendly against Clee Hill last night (Tuesday) when Jones was hoping to get a couple more signings over the line in time for Saturday. Joey Price and goalkeeper, Will Fowden should be available after missing much of pre-season and Rees Morris is set to return for Radnor’s league opener the following week after shoulder surgery. Charlie Beaumont is about a month away from a return but Craig Pigott has joined local rivals, Kington Town.
Presteigne St Andrews kick off with an away tie at Penparcau which is never an easy place to go. Penparcau were unbeaten at home in the MMP Central Wales League (South) last season but Presteigne look to be stronger this time with new signings, headed by former Welsh Premier man, Luke Boundford, leading to renewed optimism at Llanandras Park.
Brecon Corries are in the South East zone and have been paired with Ardal South East League rivals, Tredegar Town at The Rich Field. Two league meetings between the sides last season resulted in a win for Corries and a draw but that will count for nothing on Saturday.
Corries are another to have enjoyed a good pre-season and they have retained virtually all last season’s squad with James Jeffreys, who has switched to Hay St Marys, the one exception. Player-manager, Damien Daniels is likely to unveil a couple of exciting youngsters this time.