NOBODY wanted the 2020 campaign to turn out the way it has - but Llay Welfare are making the most of the cards they’ve been dealt.

Back-to-back defeats at the hands of Northop and Brymbo might not seem like the ideal way to kick-off the new-look Group B schedule, but Llay are planning for the future.

In their ranks are talented teenagers Jack Parry, Jack Aplin, Jack Billington, Joe Howell and Ethan Griffiths, who have been afforded the luxury of playing against the best teams in the area without the pressure of playing for vital points.

“It’s good for the young lads to play against these teams and then next year they will be older and more confident,” said Llay skipper Nathan Humphreys. “We were fortunate that three, four of five years ago this group of lads came to us and we will give them a chance to make an impression on the first team.”

Next-up for Llay is a home clash with rivals Gwersyllt Park, Humphreys, who is without the experienced trio of Dave Phennah, Chris Woodcock and John Lloyd continuing: “The youngsters can go out and play their game, but we still want to win and there’s bragging rights at stake this weekend.

“There’s always a derby feel to matches with Gwersyllt.”

Humphreys’ thoughts are echoed by Gwersyllt skipper Jake James, who is relishing the short trip.

“We all look forward to the derby,” declared James.

“We can thank COVID-19 for rearranging the leagues to make it happen this season.

“Llay are a very organised team, they have some very good young lads and the captain always does a job with the ball opening up.

“It’ll be a good test for the young lads this weekend.”

While captain James has struck close to 150 runs in two outings and claimed two wickets, Lewis Cole has hit back-to-back 30s and took 3-15 against Hawarden Park.

“Lewis is very eye-catching,” said James. “He’s matured a lot over the winter and it’s starting to show in his cricket. Over the last year or so he’s started to contribute to the first team with bat and ball. He hits the ball so cleanly and it stays hit.

“He knows his role in the team and nothing phases the young lad. He’s definitely one to watch over the season and the future.”

Elsewhere in Group B, Hawarden Park, who have won two out of two, entertain Pontblyddyn, in-form Northop will be looking to make it three in a row at Brymbo and Gresford tackle winless Denbigh at Clappers Lane.

In Group E, Northop Seconds put their perfect start to the season on the line at home to Brymbo Seconds, while Gresford Seconds visit Denbigh Seconds, Llay Welfare Seconds head to Gwersyllt Park Seconds and Pontblyddyn Seconds and Hawarden Park Seconds clash at Alder Meadow.

Joel Sampson says Buckley’s return to the middle has been “amazing”.

The Flintshire side have embraced the new rules and regulations with captain Sampson saying: “Things have gone great at Buckley.

“We are able to put out three teams at the weekend which I think is fantastic after this pandemic. Our committee has done a amazing job to make sure we are following the guidelines from Cricket Wales to make sure can play and train safely.

“It’s been amazing to be back. Just seeing the lads again and having laugh is what we all needed after a long time away from the game.”

Buckley have suffered successive Group C defeats to Connah’s Quay and Carmel and District, but Sampson continued: “I’ve said since beginning of this ‘new season’ I would class this year as a development year for the first team and the club. Giving young players the opportunity to play and see the standard they are at for next year is key for a club overwhelmed with young talent who can hopefully perform at first team level.”

Buckley host Halkyn tomorrow, Sampson adding: “Halkyn over the past two seasons has probably been the most competitive game of the year for us.

“Although we have lost both games, positives have been taken. I hope we have learned from that and can put in a performance against Halkyn and get our first win of the season.”

Elsewhere in Group C, Connah’s Quay head to Abergele, Mold go head-to-head with Carmel and District, and Marchwiel and Wrexham make their way to Ruthin.

The Group F fixtures see Carmel Seconds host Mold Seconds, Connah’s Quay Seconds entertain Abergele Seconds, Buckley Seconds visit Halkyn Seconds and Marchwiel and Wrexham Seconds face Ruthin Seconds.

Mynydd Isa & Maeshafn go in search of their first Group D win of the season at home to Conwy Seconds.

Other Group D fixtures: Llandudno 2nds v Mochdre 2nds; Menai Bridge 2nds v Dolgellau 2nds; Pwllheli 2nds v Bangor 2nds. Group A: Bangor v Pwllheli; Conwy v Bethesda; Mochdre v Llandudno; St Asaph v Menai Bridge.