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Haverfordwest County – The Season Ahead

A single word directed to Haverfordwest County recently proved to be as classless as it was brazenly inaccurate.

“Easy” it was not for B36 Torshavn, who had the scare of their lives before overcoming their JD Cymru Premier opposition in the Europa Conference League.

But that was the word the club from the Faroe Islands posted on their social media account, next to an emoji of a flexed bixcep.

Easy? They were handed a gift of a penalty to settle the contest and avoid a shoot-out against a side who have become spot-kick specialists of late.

This was the aftermath of County’s Europa League Conference qualifying exit. Despite the gut-wrenching nature of the defeat and frankly embarrassing antics of their opponents, Haverfordwest County were refreshingly gracious in defeat having done both their league and country proud over the summer.

But the focus swiftly turned to the Cymru Premier campaign, via a frustrating 4-0 Nathaniel MG Cup second round defeat to Cardiff City’s young guns where the Bluebirds from the West had no choice but to field a very inexperienced side following their Euro exploits.

Tony Pennock’s troops kick-started the league campaign with a hard-fought 0-0 draw at home to Pontypridd United.

Summer signing Luke Tabone captained the Bluebirds on his league debut while Tyrese Owen and Kai Whitmore – who joined from Slough Town and Penybont respectively ahead of the current campaign – also made their first Cymru Premier starts for the club.

After what was a major squad overhaul prior to their Euro efforts, Pennock and co. performed wonders to ensure they were able to turn heads in the summer while also being well stocked for another grueling league season.

Whitmore is well known to viewers of the Cymru Premier, and he wasted no time in making his mark at Haverfordwest with a number of eye-catching displays in European competition.

The loss of Jordan Davies to Connah’s Quay is undoubtedly a real blow for the Bluebirds, and it means there will be more pressure on the likes of Dan Watkins to deliver in front of goal.

Injuries have really hampered Haverfordwest of late, so rotation will be key, and if Pennock’s outfit can stay competitive when they are down to the bare bones, it will certainly bode well for when they are back at full strength.

And when you have the demon that is Zac Jones in goal, you’ll always be in the game, as evidenced on the opening weekend of action.

The New Zealand shot-stopper was pivotal to his side’s three successive penalty shoot-out wins earlier this year, and he also produced a wonder save to deny Pontypridd’s Owain Jones and preserve his clean sheet in Haverfordwest’s stalemate with United.

“Doing my job as usual,” said Jones after his heroics against Andrew Stokes’ side.

“We always say before every game that a clean sheet gives us a win or a draw, so we try to do that.”

Defensive solidity could well be the defining factor for the Bluebirds, particularly if they do have spells where goals are harder to come by.

So, realistically, what are the aims at Bridge Meadow Stadium this time around?

Having held their own in Europe, Pennock will be desperate to evolve and build on their remarkable 2023 so far, particularly with Wales set to lose a European spot next season due to the coefficient changes.

The pack chasing The New Saints know things are only going to get tougher this time next year.

But Haverfordwest dared to dream in their quest to upset the odds by even qualifying for Europe last time out, let alone to be the only Welsh side to win one of their two-legged ties.

The brutal truth is that it was not easy in the slightest for B36 Torshavn.

That in itself serves as proof as to why Haverfordwest are not to be doubted as they bid to show their recent success has been no fluke.

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