Andy Morrison feels the ‘dynamics have changed’ for Gap Connah’s Quay ahead of their third meeting against Airbus within two months.
The Flintshire rivals clash at the Airfield tomorrow (5.15pm live on S4C) with Nomads fifth and Andy Preece’s side just two points better off in fourth.
Goals from Tony Gray and Ashley Ruane led to a 1-1 draw on Boxing Day at the Deeside Stadium, before the return clash at the Airfield on January saw Airbus claim a dramatic 3-2 win as Gray netted an 89th minute winner, after Paul Linwood and Robbie Parry gave Nomads the lead.
Now their top tier future is secure, Morrison appreciates there is less riding on tomorrow’s encounter but is keen to stress his side will be going all-out for the win.
“The dynamics have changed quite a bit from the last time we played, I knew the pressure that was on that game as we didn’t want to get dragged into the bottom six,” he explained.
“The consequences would have been catastrophic because if you get dropped into that bottom six, suddenly a few defeats and you can be worrying about relegation. So that was a major plus point for us, and to beat TNS really took the pressure off for the rest of the campaign.
“That second game against Airbus was massive and this is important but in a different way. The difference between reaching the top six and bottom six is huge, but now we’re looking at finishing as high as possible which I’m sure is the case for Airbus.
“That’s not to say we can relax at all, maybe we’ll have more freedom to express ourselves against Airbus. But we are professionals and we want to win games of football.
“It’s another three points available and it won’t be lacking in intensity that’s for sure. I’m sure it’s the same for Andy, it’s a massive game for the two clubs because of the rivalry and I’m sure Andy is massively disappointed with their defeat against Bala.
“Only two weeks ago Andy said they were ‘perfectly placed’ to secure a European spot, but now they’ve been dealt a big blow and it’ll be interesting to see how they respond.”
Morrison boasts a fully fit squad ahead of the derby clash, and does not expect a repeat of the Boxing Day floods which caused his Bangor-based striker Les Davies to miss the previous fixture due to the A55 being underwater.
“I’m not envisaging any major floods in Bangor this weekend so that’s a start! We’re looking like we’ll have a clean bill of health,” he added. “Yes that’s going to be good as we had plenty missing last time, but Airbus also had three or four missing so I don’t think it will make much of a difference.
“You can have your strongest side out and get beat, but go to an away game understrength and end up taking three points, so we know it’s an unpredictable game.”
Preece is buoyed by last season’s late rally when Airbus found themselves well off the pace but eventually finished just one point behind runners-up Bala.
“Third could possibly get us into Europe if TNS also win the Welsh Cup,” said Preece. “But we are still aiming for second place. We have still got a lot to play for and there is the Welsh Cup too.
“We have still got a chance to get second place. We are in a similar position to last year.
“Bala beat us and were something like eight points ahead but they got a point at home against TNS to get second.
“It just shows what can happen if you can put a good run together, and we won’t give up.”
Preece will pit his wits against Andy Morrison, who was his assistant at Airbus before taking charge of the Nomads at the end of last year.
Airbus avoided defeat in the festive period double header between the sides, winning 3-2 and drawing 1-1, but Preece is expecting another close game.
“We did well in the two games against Nomads over Christmas, taking four points from a possible six,” said Preece, who saw his side reach the quarter-finals of the Welsh Cup with a 3-0 victory over Guilsfield on Tuesday.
“Both games were tough and competitive, which you would expect from me and Andy, and there wasn’t a lot in it. I expect the same again.
“They have been on a good run but so have we. We have only lost once in eight games so we have got to put the Bala performance out of the way and get another good performance like against Guilsfield to get a result.”
Ian Kearney (groin) and Wayne Riley (back) were forced off in midweek and will be assessed along with Andy Jones (neck) and Tony Gray (hamstring). Mike Pearson and Ashley Williams miss out but Ryan Wignall returns after a ban.
See full story in the Leader