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Predicting the Unpredictable

Barry resized

It has been said, in some quarters, that the JD Welsh Premier League is "predictable". In which case, you might think there would be a killing to be made in match betting in our national league. But anyone putting their shirt on games in the first phase of the WPL this season could have come badly unstuck.

As early as the opening match-day, there was a salutary reminder for those who consider champions TNS a "sure thing" - and there's plenty of anecdotal evidence that gamblers around the world, who'll never attend a WPL game in person, have cottoned onto the Saints admirable record. But the 5-2 defeat to Bangor City proved they weren't invincible.

Then there were the supposed 'banker' top v bottom type fixtures: newly promoted Welsh League champions Barry Town United (pictured), tipped to struggle at the top tier, visiting Bangor City and TNS - home wins, surely? But no, Barry pulled off shock wins at both Nantporth and Park Hall. Follow that trend and back Barry to win away at the other two top four sides - Cardiff Met and Connah's Quay - and you would lose again. Barry crashed to 3-0 defeats at Cyncoed and Deeside.

Football scores in any competition are affected by so many variables and that applies even in the Welsh Premier (where arguably pitch conditions count for less than elsewhere, because of the prevalence of 3G surfaces). Adding TNS to an accumulator - "because they usually win" - is all very well, but to go beyond that and invest in predicting individual games requires a degree of focus on the league and the fortunes and form of clubs that few punters will be able to manage. Without that level of research and knowledge, they might be better advised to stick to games of chance, such as the famous slot games offered in many places online!

But we have ten more match-days in the JD Welsh Premier season - Phase 2 starts in two weeks' time - and no doubt some will be tempted to look at the betting markets. What are the key factors at play in this concluding phase of the season?

It is significant that the league is now split into two groups: for the top six, there are now no relatively 'easy' games. But on the other hand, these six clubs are safe from relegation, so will any of them subconsciously relax? It's not unheard of. Will Bala Town - with form on their side after such a poor start - maintain their momentum and become serious players in the race for runners-up spot?

Equally, in the bottom six, where everyone is in theory at risk of going down, every game should be winnable - no more meetings with TNS, Nomads and the like. Barry, for instance, will hope to put together a run of wins over close rivals, rather than a few unexpected shocks against top sides.

January transfer window activity may play a part too; so may injuries - both TNS and Cardiff Met went into today's league cup final with top scorers side-lined. And who know whether the rather terse club statements put out by Bangor City in recent days will actually have any implications for their playing prospects.

It's a complex and fascinating picture and the closer you look the harder it can be to tell what will happen next. No, the JD Welsh Premier League really isn't that "predictable".

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