Date: Wed 03 Jan 2018

The pressure isn’t on us, says Barry's McLaggon ahead of Top Six Showdown

What a season it has been in The JD Welsh Premier League. Four points between second and fifth, six points between tenth and twelfth, but – almost unbelievably – one point between sixth and eighth, and with two games to go Barry Town United currently occupy sixth, with Druids and Llandudno breathing down their necks.

Kayne McLaggon spoke to WPL.Cymru Correspondent Jamie Thomas about The Dragons’ run-in as they look to complete a superb Phase One with a top six berth for Phase Two.

‘It is in our hands, absolutely, and we didn’t expect it to come this soon. If anything, the pressure is on Llandudno and Druids who have occupied that top half much more than we have this season. Druids had been in there for so long and Llandudno were top of the league at the start of the season, whereas we’ve only spent a few days there comparatively, so they might feel a bit of an injustice if we nick it.

‘We go to Connah’s Quay on Saturday and put in a performance, but the pressure isn’t really on us – they’ll be expected to beat us, as Bala will on the final day – but we’ve pulled out performances when we’ve needed them against the top sides this season so I wouldn’t be surprised if we go out to those two games and get results.

‘We’ve dropped more teams playing against the teams around us, to be honest, which has been quite frustrating – if we’d performed better against those teams then I think our top six place would already be sealed, to be honest with you – so it isn’t the top teams that we fail to perform against.

‘Yes, they’re difficult fixtures, but we probably have a better record against these teams than the ones around us, plus our direct opponents have to play each other too, so one of them will drop points. It is all in our hands and if we perform like we know we can then we’ll achieve our goals.’

’We’ve taken a big step forward.’

The Dragons have certainly added as much as expected to the appeal of The JD Welsh Premier League since their promotion at the end of last season, which is saying something considering the incredible fanfare which served as a backdrop to the arrival of Gavin Chesterfield’s side in Wales’ Premier Division.

Is it fair to say then, given this is Barry Town United’s first year back at this level, that sitting inside the top six as they are at present, is beyond the initial expectations the side had for their JDWPL return?

‘Our aim was obviously to stay up – whenever you come into a new league, you just want to stay there – and whilst we obviously haven’t achieved that yet we are on the way to meeting and, perhaps, surpassing that target with ourselves occupying a spot inside the top six at the moment.

‘We do still have two games to go and it is going to be very difficult against two teams who are above us in the table at the moment, so there is a long way to go, but whether we get sixth, seventh or eighth come the split, we’ll feel like this is a big step forward for us.

‘We’re happy with what we’re doing at the minute, whatever happens come January 13th it has been a good start but we want to carry that into Phase Two and continue to progress and develop as a group.’

’You can’t script this league, and that’s what makes it so exciting and unpredictable.’

Whilst on the one hand this season Bangor City and The New Saints have fallen to Barry Town United at their own venues, much to The Dragons’ immense credit, on the other hand McLaggon has been on the losing side in other circumstances where perhaps they shouldn’t have been, given the fantastic results secured against the heavyweights previously mentioned.

That competitiveness and unpredictable nature of the league hasn’t gone unnoticed by Barry’s leading scorer.

‘The competitiveness has surprised me, I have to be honest, and although TNS have carved out a gap at the top in recent weeks I think this has been the closest the league has been from top to bottom for quite a few years, to be honest, and that is showing in the results – a few teams have gone to Bangor or TNS and won, so you can’t script this league and that’s what makes it so exciting and unpredictable.

‘In the leagues I’ve played in over the last few years there have always been a few fixtures where you fancy your chances against certain teams who are struggling for results or anything like that, but in this league every game is incredibly challenging, whether you’re playing the team in first or twelfth.

‘You go to Carmarthen or Prestatyn, the two teams at the bottom at the moment, and you know you’re going to be involved in a real battle – we lost to Prestatyn away and found it hard to beat Carmarthen away too – so this league is full of really difficult teams from top to bottom.

‘On the other hand, we’ve been to TNS and to Bangor and beat them, but those teams and the likes of Connah’s Quay and Bala can really thump you if you’re not on it, the standard is consistently difficult from top to bottom.’

’We’ve been very fortunate to have a variety of big experiences this year.’

Highs and lows have littered The Dragons’ season so far, but the journey has been spectacular and the end to Phase One could secure an incredible Top Six finish for McLaggon and his teammates, but how much have they benefitted from the journey itself and what does it mean to them to be in their current position?

‘We’ve been very fortunate to have a variety of big experiences this year, whether they be highs or lows – you look at winning at Bangor and TNS, but also losing 2-0 to Caernarfon in The JD Welsh Cup. We were really down after that game, we had some words afterwards and come out of the other side much stronger.

‘Bangor at home was the next game, so that just shows you how it doesn’t get any easier, and they could have been 3-0 up at halftime, but we hung on in there and battered them in the second half somehow – perhaps could have gone on to win the game – and since then we’ve won three out of four to get us into the top six.

‘We’ve had bitten your hand off to be outside of the relegation zone with two games to go, never mind to be inside the top six, so it has been a really good start. We’ve learnt lessons from our highs, and learnt from our lows – we’ve been quite up and down – and for Phase Two I think we need to find that middle-ground a bit more and develop that consistency.’

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