THE first Saturday of the new year has local clubs returning to Welsh League action following the festive break and the fixture list includes four county derbies - the pick of which could be the Division Two promotion clash between hosts Cwmbran Celtic and Caldicot Town.
Saturday (all 2.00pm kick offs).
Division One (figures in brackets relate to table positions of 16).
Centre of Sporting Excellence, Ystrad Mynach: Aberbargoed Buds (15) v Monmouth Town (11).
This is a derby neither side can really afford to lose as they continue their respective bids to claw themselves away from the relegation zone.
Aberbargoed were the latest winners of the two, losing twice since defeating 4-3 ground-sharers Risca United 4-3 at this venue on November 27.
Monmouth's last success was 3-2 against visiting bottom-placed Garden Village on October 17, since when they've drawn and lost three times.
Defeat would obviously leave Aberbargoed in the danger area while loss for Monmouth would have a even
greater affect because they have played more matches than all five clubs beneath them.
Aberbargoed Buds: L W W L W L
Monmouth Town: D L L D D L
Old Road: Briton Ferry Llansawel (8) v Goytre (2).
Goytre will be hell bent to recover winning ways following two consecutive away reverses, 3-1 at Taffs Well and 1-0 at Barry Town United.
The do, however, trail leaders Cardiff Metropolitan University by just a single point and the two clubs have yet to meet each other this season.
This match marks the start of the second half of Goytre's 30-fixture programme and they will certainly be keen to get somewhere near the form which produced a 5-0 home win over BFL in late September.
This, though, won't be any sort of given as the hosts have gone six games unbeaten at home - including a 2-1 success over table-topping CMU three weeks ago.
Briton Ferry: D W W L W L
Goytre: W W W W L L
Glenhafod Park Stadium: Goytre United (6) v Risca United (12).
The green shoots of recovery in the shape of two wins from their last three outings means Risca have climbed out of the top-tier drop zone.
However they may lack a bit match practice as they have not played a competative game since the 2-0 home win over Briton Ferry Llansawel on December 5.
They are the only side in the 16-club section not to have drawn this season (five wins and 10 losses), so maybe this will be a good time to pick up a point if a win can not be gained.
The hosts have played only 11 times, but have lost just once, and have enough matches in hand from which to earn enough points to top the division.
Goytre United: D W W L D D
Risca United: L L L W L W
Division Two: (figures in brackets relate to table positions of 16).
Woodland Road: Croesyceiliog (16) v AFC Porth (10).
If you remain propping up the entire division, then there is really only one way you can go - and that's out at the wrong end.
Therefore even though they have played just 12 of 30 games and are only a couple of points from safety, the warning signs are already flashing for Croesyceiliog.
Their home form of four successive defeats hardly inspires thoughts of victory, although perhaps the idea of twarting former manager Gareth Morgan on his return will.
Porth are eight points better off, so are within Croesyceiliog's sights - but they have not played a league match since drawing 1-1 with visiting Llanwern on October 31.
Croesyceiliog: W L L L L L
AFC Porth: L W L L W D
Celtic Park: Cwmbran Celtic (2) v Caldicot Town (5).
This clash has all the makings of no-prisoners-taken affair between two local clubs extremely keen to earn promotion back to the top flight.
Celtic will be slight favourites, but will have to perform better when their lengthy sequence of wins came to a halt with a 3-1 defeat at Llanwern on December 12.
Caldicot, on the other hand, will begin fresh from a fine, 3-2 home triumph over Ammanford - who they climbed above to go second behind Undy Athletic.
Would each side accept a point apiece right now? Probably yes. However neither will be playing for anything less than a win and that could well make for a great game.
Cwmbran Celtic: L W W W W L
Caldicot Town: L W W L W W
The Causeway: Undy Athletic (2) v Chepstow Town (15).
These clubs have vastly different agendas - the hosts to gain Division One status for the first time and the visitors an escape route out of the relegation zone.
Undy were 2-1 home victors over Tata Steel on December 12 and here they will be defending an unbeaten eight-match run.
That win over Tata was Undy's last outing, but you have to go back as long ago as the last day of October to discover Chepstow's previous game - a 3-1 home reverse against Pontardawe Town.
Everything, therefore, points to a home victory - but county derbies are rarely that cut and dried and you should always expect the unexpected.
Undy Athletic: W W W W D W
Chepstow Town: W L L D L L
Division Three (figures in brackets relate to table positions of 18).
North Site, Bridgend: Bettws (10) v Lliswerry (11).
Lliswerry's recent run of three successive defeats since a 1-0 away win over Newport YMCA has seen them slip down from a top-six spot.
Indeed with the possibility of up to five teams to be relegated at the end of the season, the Spytty Park club must start to arrest the slide.
Even a repeat of the point gained from a 0-0 home draw with Bettws on August 29 would be an improvement and, co-incidently, only the hosts (with 39 as opposed to 32) have conceded more goals in the top 14.
This will be Bettws' third consecutive home match against a side from the region as they previously lost 3-2 against Newport YMCA and defeated Treowen Stars 4-2.
Bettws: L W D W L L
Lliswerry: L W W L L L
Cold Bath Road: Caerleon (9) v Newport Civil Service (18).
You can't alter true stats and it's a fact Caerleon have not lost a game since they went down 5-2 at Treowen way back on October 31.
They have, however, played only twice since that date - but they remained undefeated in drawing 0-0 at home with Ely Rangers and before winning 2-0 at Lliswerry on December 19.
This season has been a tale of woe, frustration and sheer bad luck for NCS, who have not played a league match since a 7-3 away thumping at Caerau on November 21.
That will doubtless have an affect on their match fitness and because of that, they will start here at long-shots to earn a positive result.
Caerleon: D L L W L W
Newport Civil Service: L L L L L L
Riverside Ground, Radyr: Cardiff Corinthians (15) v Treowen Stars (13).
Treowen's only league game during the whole of the last two months produced a 3-2 away defeat at the hands of Abergavenny Town on December 5.
It all means they are still hovering just above the danger area, although they do have a couple of games in hand over several of the clubs above them.
The positive is every other club among the bottom nine has conceded more goals then Treowen, who here seek a campaign double having beaten the Corries 2-1 at home in late August.
The hosts are in even deeper trouble with two points less and having played a couple of matches more, although their last games saw them draw 2-2 with STM Sports and beat Bettws 6-4.
Cardiff Corinthians: L L L L L W
Treowen Stars: D W L W L L
Windmill Ground: Llantwit Major (8) v Abergavenny Town (4).
Matters are going along very nicely for league debutants Abergavenny, who are unbeaten in six league matches - including winning all of the last four.
And along with divisional rivals Caerau, they are joint top goalscorers in the entire 50-strong league with 43 from just 13 outings.
They trail the table-toppers Bridgend Street by only four points and although only two clubs are to be promoted, Abergavenny are certainly classed as genuine contenders.
The hosts are a further 13 points behind, but have a couple of matches in hand, and will certainly want to re-produce the form which gained them a 1-1 draw at Abergavenny in late August.
Llantwit Major: L W W W W D
Abergavenny: W D W W W W
Panteg House, Griffithstown: Panteg (14) v Bridgend Street (1).
Panteg defeated visiting Lliswerry 3-1 on December 5, but that has proved to be their only league appearance since October 24 - although the two-week season extension will help then play fixture catch-up.
They are also still in the League Cup and travel to face Division One outfit Caerau (Ely) in round three on January 9 for a place in the last eight and could include Lewis Iles - a new signing from Gwent County League side Sebastopol.
This game, however, could prove to be an extremely difficult one for them as the capital-based visitors are well on course to earn Division Two football for the first time.
They have lost only twice in 13 starts, won all of their last six - but may lack match practice as they have not played since winning 5-1 at home against Caerau as long ago as November 28.
Panteg: W L W L L W
Bridgend Street: W W W W W W
Cardiff University Sports Fields, Llanrumney: STM Sports (6) v Newport YMCA (7).
For all their inconsistency this season, YMCA are certainly capable of achieving a top-six spot by the end of the campaign.
Returned to winning ways by beating hosts Bettws 3-2 three weeks ago and their away form is good with victories also at Cardiff Corinthians, Abergavenny and a draw at Tredegar.
Darren Berry has proved to be a decent signing from Midland League Premier Division outfit Westfields FC and is the club's top league scorer with seven of the side's total of 26.
STM are in their first season at this level and their recent fine form of four wins from five has them on the verge of joining the race to go up.
STM Sports: L W W L W W
Newport YMCA: L L W L L W
Leisure Complex: Tredegar Town (5) v Pontypridd Town (3).
Only one point gained from the last 12 on offer has cast serious doubts on Tredegar's ability to remain in the promotion hunt.
It means they are 11 points adrift of second spot having played three matches more and they are the lowest goalscorers in the top seven with just 23 from 16 fixtures.
That said, Tredegar are capable of upsetting the odds here - although it has to be pointed out that they must bring their 'A game' to this contest.
Pontypridd are seeking a fifth consecutive victory and a top-two place will be their's should they win only one of the couple of matches they have in hand over Caerau.
Tredegar: W W L L D L
Pontypridd Town: W L W W W W