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A fitting start to 2021 for one of 2020’s many star Cymru Premier performers has seen Penybont’s Lewis Harling win the December Player of the Month Award, and in conversation with Cymru Football recently the 28-year-old midfielder discussed his strong year of performances in 2020 and more.

A key part of Rhys Griffiths’ ever-improving side, Harling is high on confidence at the moment as four goals in 14 games this season has seen him catch the eye of many, and the former Carmarthen Town midfielder is pleased that he has been able to add consistent goal-scoring to his game this term.

“Things have been going great for me this season. I probably haven’t been known for scoring goals in my previous years at this level, but it has always been something I’ve tried to bring into my game more, and the management at Penybont have always really encouraged me to try and get into the box more and score goals from midfield.

“It has fallen for me on a few occasions and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to score some goals for the team. It is a bit of a shame that the season has been so stop-and-start in these crazy times, but obviously I’m really looking forward to when we can start playing again and keeping the good form goin.

“Morale is really high in the squad, but we’re just trying to stay focussed at the moment in the middle of lockdown and concentrate on picking up where we left off before it was all drawn to a halt.”

“We’ve clearly improved a lot.”

The Bryntirion Park side have already matched their 2019/20 points tally of 21 points in just 14 games as they sit in sixth place with three games in hand on Caernarfon Town (1pt ahead) and two games in hand on Barry Town United in fourth (3pts ahead).

It is a huge improvement for a side who were in a relegation scrap last year in their first season at Cymru Premier level to now have been mixing it in the top half of the table for much of the season and securing some big results on the way, with Harling being a key part of that journey over the last 12 months.

“It has been a bit of a mad year – I think we survived on the same amount of points last season and it was great to stay up, massive for the club, and what they’ve done to build off the pitch to remain in the league has been brilliant, to be honest.

“This season we’re already on 21 points and we’re not even halfway through yet, so we’ve clearly improved a lot and it is great for the club to start seeing the rewards for all the hard work. It has been a strange time, but we can’t wait for the next game.

“We fully understand why it has to be like this though, taking into account the health of others and knowing that this has to come first, and we’re really looking forward to getting back on the pitch when we can.”

“It’s a joy to be around the club.”

It’s no wonder Harling has been able to add goals to his game at a more prolific rate than before given the coaching he is receiving from one of the Welsh game’s greatest goal-scorers in the form of his manager, Rhys Griffiths, and the 28-year-old credits his boss and the coaching staff massively for their help in that regard.

Overall though, Harling adds that the praise and plaudits he has received since joining Penybont have been very welcome and helped him improve his game even further.

“The manager has been brilliant with me, and the players have been very welcoming to me as well. I can’t speak highly enough of them because they’ve done everything to make me feel at home and I feel like I’ve been here for years, to be honest with you.

“It is really good to play under the manager too, he wants us to get the ball down and play football, express ourselves and try new things and he and the coaching staff have been helping me a lot in terms of getting into the right positions to add goals to my game and things like that.

“It has been nice to have some plaudits and praise this season too, especially from people within the club because it just makes you want to play harder for them and gives you more confidence. It’s a joy to be around the club.”

“Being in the top six would be massive for the club.”

Although it has been a very challenging year, Harling details the growth he has seen in the team, the squad and the league in that time and adds that if the club can continue on their current trajectory then a finish in the upper echelons of the league standings would be a significant feat for the second-season Cymru Premier side.

“When I first joined the club there were a lot of young players in the dressing room and maybe not as many experienced heads in there, but the talent those youngsters have is frightening at times to be honest and there are some really good young players at the club.

“Adding more senior figures to that group over the last few months has created a very good balance and we should be where we are in the table with what we’ve got, I think, in the mix for fourth, fifth or sixth, because it is a great squad – we just need to keep focussed on what we’re doing.

“There’s a lot of good teams in the league now, the standard is improving every year, so you’ve always got to be on it and ready to give everything to win the game. Being in or around the top six as the season progresses would be massive for the club – especially given where we were at the end of last season – and competing for those top six spots would be a very good achievement, definitely.”

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