THE NEW SAINTS 7 – 1 HOLYWELL TOWN

Welsh League Cup (The Word Cup) Round 2 – 29th September 2015

Park Hall Stadium, Oswestry, Shropshire

Attendance: Approx 250 – 300

  • Entrance: £8.00
  • Programme: £3.00
  • Pin Badge: £2.00
  • Large Cup of Coffee: £2.60

The final match of September would see a return back to Welsh League Cup (or to give it its sponsored name of ‘the Word Cup’) action for myself this season. This competition was the second biggest national cup competition after the Welsh Cup, and would be only open to teams from the Welsh Premier League, Cymru Alliance, Welsh League Division 1, as well as four “wildcard” entries who were considered worthy due to their performances last season. Also the matches for the League Cup would be played midweek, either on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, resulting in the early round fixtures being regionalised to avoid long journeys for players and supporters on a mid-week night.

Earlier in the month, myself and Greg had made the long trip down to Guilsfield on a Tuesday night to see one of the first round fixtures when we watched WPL team Gap Connah’s Quay achieve an extra time win against their Mid-Wales based Cymru Alliance opponents (see blog here). However because it was a Tuesday night, we both missed the extra time goals due to having to return home early due to an hour’s journey ahead of us.

Holywell Town were also competing in the League Cup, and having beaten Buckley Town at Halkyn Road in Round 1, Holywell Town were given the toughest draw possible in the second round of the competition. The wildcard entry was drawn away to the current league champions and cup holders The New Saints. A tough fixture in order but a glamour tie for all those involved with Holywell, plus it would provide a good indication of how far the team had progressed whilst playing against Wales’ best team. Therefore with eagerness and excitement for this match, it meant a Tuesday night trip down the A483 to Oswestry was in order and thankfully the journey wasn’t as far as trip down to Guilsfield.

The town of Oswestry [Pic taken from http://www.oswestry.com/ ]
The town of Oswestry
[Pic taken from http://www.oswestry.com/ ]
Oswestry (Welsh: Croesoswallt) is a market town of approximately 16,600 inhabitants situated in the English county of Shropshire and located between Wrexham (14,5 miles south) and Shrewsbury (18 miles north-west). The town is the third biggest town in the border county (after Telford and Shrewsbury) and is considered as one of England’s oldest border settlements. It is also located in an important infrastructural position, at the junction of the old London to Holyhead A5 road, the A483 and A495 roads.

Due to its close location to the Welsh-English border (just 5 miles from the border), the town has a mixed Welsh and English history with the town changing hands between the two countries throughout the Middle Ages. As a result, Oswestry has Welsh street and place names, as well as a history of the Welsh language being spoken in the town by market traders selling their wares at the weekly market, and sermons in the town’s chapel, resulting in the town’s folk being historically bilingual. However today only a small few people in the town are able to speak Welsh, although Welsh-language literature can still be bought from the town.

The town’s name in Welsh is Croesoswallt, meaning “Oswald’s Cross”, whilst the current English name is probably derived from “Oswald’s Tree”. The Oswald in question is Saint Oswald of Northumbria who was killed and dismembered in the Battle of Masterfield (a battle fought in 642 between the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria). According to legend, Oswald’s dismembered arm was carried to an ash tree by a raven which miracles were subsequently attributed to – hence the old English name.

The New Saints

The town’s full-time professional football team is The New Saints, or to provide its full name “The New Saints of Oswestry Town and Llansantffraid Football Club”. As the full name suggests, the club is a result of a merger in 2003 between two former League of Wales teams – former League of Wales and Welsh Cup winners Total Network Solutions of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain (a village 8 miles away from Oswestry over the border in Montgomeryshire, Powys) and the historic club Oswestry Town (an English team who competed in the Welsh football pyramid).

Llansantffraid_FC_logo

Llansantffraid F.C. were founded in 1959 to represent Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain (population approximately 1,000) and traditionally played at the Recreation Ground. During their early history they applied their trade in the Montgomeryshire Amateur Football League, winning the league seven times, before gaining election into the Mid-Wales League for the 1990-91 season. This was the start of a meteoric rise as the following season saw them gain promotion to the Cymru Alliance as runners-up, before gaining another promotion to the top-flight League of Wales in the 1992-93 season.

At the end of the 1995-96 campaign the small village club made history by winning their first Welsh Cup, beating league champions Barry Town on penalties after drawing 3-3, and subsequently qualifying for the now defunct European Cup Winners’ Cup competition. It was at this time that a £250,000 sponsorship deal was arranged with a local computer company, Total Network Solutions of Oswestry, which incorporated the company’s name into the club’s name. As Total Network Solutions Llansantffraid F.C., they faced the Polish cup winners Ruch Chorzów, earning a credible 1-1 draw at home before being knocked out of the competition 1-6 on aggregate.

Llansantffraid@2.-TNS-logo

In 1997 the club’s name was shortened to just Total Network Solutions F.C., becoming the first team in the UK to rename itself using only the sponsor’s name. The club would go on to win its first League of Wales (later the Welsh Premier League) title at the turn of the millennium, and would compete against league rival Barry Town on an equal footing by becoming a professional outfit with full-time playing staff.

150px-Oswestry_Town

There are records of football has been played in Oswestry since the early 1860 with Oswestry United which would make Oswestry Town one of the oldest football clubs in the world. However there are certainly records of the team being established in 1875 as Oswestry F.C., before changing their name back to Oswestry United in 1893, before adopting “Town” after the First World War. The Oswestry club used to play at their games at Park Hall, which is now the stadium used by The New Saints. Due to their age and proximity to the border, they were founder members of the Football Association of Wales (FAW) in 1876 (as Oswestry F.C.) and regularly competed in the Welsh Cup, being semi-finalists in the 1886-87 competition, and reaching the same round in the 1938-39, 1955-56 and 1970-71 seasons.

Location of Park Hall stadium in comparison with Oswestry
Location of Park Hall stadium in comparison with Oswestry

Despite having roots in Welsh football, the vast majority of its history was spent playing in the lower leagues of the English football pyramid, as well as competing in the FA Cup and reaching the first round proper on a number of occassions. They spent the inter-war and post-WW2 periods playing in the Birmingham & District League, winning the league in the 1952-53 season, before spending the 1960s and early 1970s in the Cheshire League. A move to the Southern League Division 1 North followed, before moving to the Northern Premier League in the 1979-80 season. There they would stay, achieving lower half finishes in the table before they were forced to fold in 1988 due to financial problems.

The club reformed in 1993 and joined the Welsh football pyramid, starting out in the Welsh National League (Wrexham Area) before gaining promotion to the Cymru Alliance as champions in the 1994-95 season. They would win the Cymru Alliance the following season although were unable to gain promotion to the top flight before they would finally gain promotion in the 1999-2000 season, again through winning the Cymru Alliance title. Oswestry Town would spend three seasons in the top flight without much success, achieving one 15th place finish and two subsequent 16th place finishes, before financial problems reappeared for the club.

As a result of the dire financial situation, the Oswestry Town shareholders agreed with the proposed merger with Total Network Solutions which would see the former league champions move from their traditional home of Llansantffraid to Oswestry but would see the Oswestry Town name disappear from Welsh football once again.

The first season of the merger would be trophyless for the Oswestry-based outfit, before they achieved a WPL and Welsh Cup (beating Carmarthen Town 1-0) double winning season in the 2004-05 season, and regain their WPL title the following season. The highlight of the Total Network Solutions merger era would a money-spinning and highly promoted tie against defending Champions League winners Liverpool in a two-legged tie in the 1st qualifying round of the 2005-06 competition. Despite praise from Rafa Benitez, especially for young Northern Irish keeper Gerard Doherty, they would succumb to two 0-3 defeats losing 0-6 on aggregate but gaining worldwide attention for their efforts.

After main sponsor Total Network Solutions got bought out by BT, the club changed their name to the current name of “The New Saints” in 2006. Conveniently keeping the initials of the old team name, it adopted the moniker due to the history of both clubs. Llansantffraid’s old nickname was “The Saints”, whilst Oswestry have strong connections to Saint Oswald. This was reflected in the club’s new badge, with the dragon representing the Welsh Llansantffraid, and the lion representing the English Oswestry.

Following their new name change, the Saints would achieve more success in the Welsh Premier League, ultimately becoming the most successful Welsh club in terms of league wins – winning nine league titles in their history including the last four league campaigns consecutively. In fact, the only times TNS have finished outside of the Top 2 positions in the 21st century were in the 2000-01 & 2008-09 seasons which goes to show how dominant they have been in Welsh football since the turn of the new millennium. Their recent success has helped due to their them being the only professional team in the league after the demise of both South Wales rivals Llanelli and Neath, as well as financial issues with Rhyl and Bangor City limiting their title challenges.

WPL Table 2014-15
WPL Table 2014-15

As well as achieving league domination, they would enjoy recent success in the Welsh Cup winning three of the last four cup competitions, beating then Cymru Alliance team Cefn Druids 2-0 in 2011-12, Aberystwyth Town 3-1 in 2013-14 (the season when Holywell Town reached the semi-finals) and impressively beating Newtown 2-0 at their own ground of Latham Park last season. Last season’s campaign would be the most impressive of The New Saints era as the Welsh Cup was the final piece of an historic treble winning season where they also claimed the Welsh League Cup (beating Bala Town 3-0 at Newtown) – and this match against Holywell would be their first defence of their trophy.

TNS achieved a bye into the second round due to them being current Welsh League Cup champions along with Bala Town (finalists), Prestatyn Town and Port Talbot Town (semi-finalists). The Saints were also doing well in the WPL, situated at the top of the table after playing seven games and achieving 13 points from 3 wins and 4 draws, whilst staying undefeated so far this season. Their previous game to this cup match was a 0-0 draw with title challengers Bala Town.

The WPL League prior to the match
The WPL League prior to the match

Despite being in a league below, Holywell Town would be going into the cup match full of confidence and with ideas of a potential cup shock occurring against their most illustrious opponents. September had proved to be a superb month for the Wellmen, achieving a 100% win rate winning all six matches in all competitions (the latest coming against Caersws in a 2-0 away victory) and situated in 3rd position in the Cymru Alliance table, which helped boost confidence. Plus Holywell have achieved a reputation of producing cup shocks in cup competitions, with the exploits of the last two Welsh Cup cup runs still fresh in the minds of every Wellmen supporter.

The Cymru Alliance table prior to the game
The Cymru Alliance table prior to the game

The Wellmen were admitted into the national cup competition as one of the four “wildcard” entries after their amazing treble-winning performance last season saw them worthy of a berth in the cup. Therefore this match would be a clash of the treble-winners! Holywell earned their position in Round 2 after beating local Flintshire rivals Buckley Town 2-1 at Halkyn Road through goals from Tom McElmeel and Steve Lewis in a toughly fought contest.

Alas I would making the journey down to Park Hall on my own this time around for this second round fixture. Despite being excited about the match also, Greg was unable to accompany me down to TNS to support the Wellmen as a result of his shifts falling on the afternoon-evening schedule. Despite this, he still managed to listen to the game via an online radio station (more about that later). Even though I would be flying solo for this groundhopping mission, I would be returning to a ground I had previously visited in the pre-season schedule and thus knew the way to the ground from 94th Minute HQ.

Park Hall at my first visit
Park Hall at my first visit

I had made my debut visit to Park Hall way back in early August when I went to watch the home side take on Northern Ireland Premiership team Cliftonville in an international pre-season friendly. On that occasion, despite encouragement from a large contingent of visiting fans, the match proved to be a drab affair resulting in a 0-0 draw. It would become one of a very select few goalless games that I had encountered since starting this groundhop journey. This time around, I was actually hoping the scoreline would be goalless after 90 minutes as it meant Holywell would have a chance of sneaking a goal and pulling off a famous cup shock.

The history of The New Saints
The history of The New Saints

Park Hall Stadium is located in the village of Park Hall, located just on the outskirts of Oswestry and, as mentioned previously, was the old home of Oswestry Town. The ground has seen vast improvements over the years becoming the first in the WPL to adopt a 3G synthetic surface, and building stands to allow 1,000 supporters to be seated. The ground is dominated by the huge clubhouse/gym complex (named “The Venue”) which looms over the pitch and can be accessed via the large car park or from the pitch/stands. It houses the changing rooms for both teams deep in the complex, whilst having a viewing and media balcony providing a great panoramic view of the pitch.

The TV gantry & dugout from my first visit
The TV gantry & dugout from my first visit

The ground has two covered seating stands, with one of them located below the clubhouse complex and stretching for half of the pitch, whilst the other covered stand is at one of the ends of the pitch. Opposite the complex is an impressive brick built media gantry building where the Sgorio cameras are located during live game, and also houses the dugouts and benches for both teams.

One of the stands (from the debut visit)
One of the stands (from the debut visit)

The 40 mile journey down from Holywell to the Park Hall Stadium took just over 50 minutes, and thankfully the rush-hour traffic had subsided by that point ensuring there were few delays. I arrived at the large car park for 7:10pm, a good 35 minutes before kick-off, and was surprised how busy the place was! Clearly a load of Saints and Wellmen fans had turned up for the game ensuring the car park was surprisingly jammed for this evening’s cup contest. Thankfully an attendant directed me towards an empty space in the far end of the car park – thanks to the volunteer for the help!

Having parked up I walked down the path running from the car park towards the turnstiles at the bottom of the hill to gain entry to the ground. Entrance for this game was £8 – the standard entry fee for The New Saints this season, whilst also purchasing the accompanying programme for the game, which was an additional £3. As you would imagine from the league champions, the programme is certainly well produced with lots of information about both teams with plenty of photographs from previous matches. TNS’ media department is arguably the best in the division with many forms of media slickly operated, and the programmes were certainly no exception.

However another form of TNS media was interesting me this evening. As you might be aware (or not), TNS has its own online radio station (called TNS Radio) which allows supporters from around the world to tune into live broadcasts of TNS games being played. A fantastic idea which I know a couple of other Welsh teams have delved into recently (Pontypridd Town being another I know off the top of my head) and something which I think other Welsh teams should be exploring if the facilities at their grounds make it possible. As with other games played at Park Hall, TNS Radio would be live broadcasting over the internet for this evening’s match, and on this occasion, yours truly would be making his debut radio appearance!

TNS Radio is ran by Sam Thomas and the club’s chaplain Rev Stewart Bloor, who acts as main commentator for games and also provides a fantastic weekly blog on the club’s website. The Rev is also another person who I have gotten to know through my groundhopping exploits and have contact with on Twitter (such a great site for bring supporters together). For his broadcasts, he encourages guests and supporters to come onto his show to have a chat about football, using the enticement of slices of homemade cake baked by his wife. During our Twitter exchange about the match, he asked if I would like to come onto the broadcast and talk about my groundhop journey during the game. With the opportunity to chat about my exploits so far, and the possibility of free cake, the Rev made his own Marlon Brando Godfather style offer that I simply couldn’t refuse!

The Rev had told me that when I arrived at the ground, to make my way up to the media gallery up on the viewing balcony and he would meet me there. Prior to meeting him, I decided to quench the thirst by purchasing a cup of coffee from the clubhouse, which can be accessed from the pitch via a set of steps leading up to the balcony. On the way to the clubhouse I saw a load of Holywell fans milling about and enjoying the venue – clearly identified by the red & white striped scarves around their necks (I was wearing my scarf also for the record ha). Feeling incredibly buoyed by another immense turnout from the Holywell faithful on another away day outing, I bounded up the steps to get my caffeine hit.

The cup of black coffee cost me £2.60 from the main desk in The Venue clubhouse, and I also decided to add to the collections by buying a pin badge for £2.00. In my previous visit, I had bought a mug for about £4 or £5, so the TNS branded mug was already in the collection!

The match programme and pin badge bought
The match programme and pin badge bought

With y goffi in hand, and the pin badge securely in the pocket, I met the Rev in the media gantry and we had a chat about the upcoming game as well as items has planned for the radio show such as Beat The Belle, where supporters predict the score for that TNS game. Named after current Port Talbot and WPL striking legend Cortez Belle (who I saw playing for the Nomads against Rhyl last season), he would provide a prediction for that particular match. Alas for Cortez, he hasn’t had a prediction right since he’s done it! One day it’ll come in!! For this match he predicted a scoreline of 4-0 to TNS, which I thought was completely wrong as I believed the match would much more closer (I predicted 2-2….yeah I know…..)

Another recently added fixture to the TNS Radio schedule is the TNS Radio Cake, which has gone down a storm since its introduction a few game previously. As stated previously, the Rev’s wife bakes cakes for guests to try whilst they’re on the radio and I have to say the cake she had made for this game was a corker! I had a slice of a classic fruit cake and it was delicious!

With cake consumed, the Rev began the live broadcast to the listeners who were now tuning in online to listen to tonight’s Welsh League Cup game. Alas for the first part of the broadcast he was on his own as Sam Roberts was making his way from Aberystwyth University to the game – now that is commitment! He then introduced me to the audience and publicised this blog (thanks again Rev!) and we had a good 10-15 chat about my groundhopping exploits, how I got into it, what grounds I am to do in the future, and other interview questions which I thoroughly enjoyed every second of!

Once my interview was over, I was expecting to head back to the stand and watch the match whilst Rev & Sam did they’re usual radio broadcast. However the Rev then asked if I would like to stay for the whole game and be part of the commentary team for the match! They normally allow fans from the opposition into the radio booth to give varying opinions on the game, and tonight I would be the Holywell representative! Now I was excited to be on the radio before, so imagine my pure excitement and delight at being allowed to be part of match commentary! Only one answer to that question Reverend…..The 94th Minute was going on the airwaves!! My only hope was that I would be nearer to a Gary Neville standard to Rev’s Martin Tyler, and not end up a Holywell version of Michael Owen….

With microphone in hand, I was excited for the upcoming game between two teams who had completed their own treble winning seasons last season. It was so pleasing to see how far Holywell had progressed in the last 24 months that they were now competing against “the big boys” of the WPL in the League Cup, and I had hope that the Wellmen would give TNS a good game and perhaps cause a potential cup shock. Needless to say, I made sure I built up Holywell’s chances prior to the game on the radio!

Holywell Town pre-match training for the game
Holywell Town pre-match training for the game

Conditions for the match were ok although the temperatures were falling rapidly and a slight fog was forming within the ground. The haze created from the fog was now clearly showing around the full beaming floodlights which was gloriously illuminating the pitch. Both teams had made changes for this match with TNS resting a few of their first-team players, whilst Holywell were forced into changes due to injuries and unavailable players such as Steve Lewis, who was missing for the cup match.

The New Saints training before the match
The New Saints training before the match

TNS played in their usual home kit of green & white hooped shirts, green shorts with white socks, whilst Holywell were in their home strip of red & white striped shirts, with red shorts and socks.

TNS's team selection
TNS’s team selection
Holywell's team selection
Holywell’s team selection

[At this point I should apologies for the lack of photos from the match but I was busy on the radio…]

MATCH REPORT – FIRST HALF

As expected, the WPL champions started off brightly with the ball being superbly passed around the pitch and making their lower league opposition work hard for possession. Naturally TNS would get the first chance of the match when an Alex Darlington cross was headed just over the crossbar by former Welsh international and TNS defender and youth coach Steve Evans. The experienced centre back rose highest of everyone in the penalty area, but failed to test Mike Platt in the Holywell goal.

The Saints would get another couple of chances to break the deadlock within the first 10 minutes of the game. Firstly Darlington blazed his ball over the bar from a corner after Evans had again won the aerial battle by deftly nodding the ball back into the danger zone from the back post to set up his team-mate. Then Darlington would have another chance to score after a long ball from James Jones over the Wellmen’s defensive lines allowed him to break clear. Once again his effort failed to force Platt into a save as his shot drifted wide of post. The home side were making a statement of intent!

Despite TNS’ early dominance, Holywell would exploit their advantage in pace to hit their more illustrious opponents on the counter-attack. Superb work in the midfield by captain Tom McElmeel and Graeme Williams allowed new signing Ryan Davidson to whip a cross into the box to find Ross Ankers steaming into the area. However the youngster could only flick his header just wide of Chris Mullock’s post.

A few minutes later and every Wellmen supporter would be in dream land as the Cymru Alliance team took a shock lead in the cup tie. A long ball from midfield towards the TNS goal looked to be dealt with the defender, but at the crucial moment slipped allowing Williams to steal the ball. Williams jinked past a challenge before crossing into the box where Ankers made no mistake with his second chance on goal by connecting with the pass and firing the ball past Mullock to take an early lead. Cue scenes from the travelling contingent of Holywell fans located behind the TNS goal, and the ones up in the media gallery! An incredible start and signs a potential shock could be occurring??

The New Saints 0 – 1 Holywell Town

Hopes of a famous night for the Flintshire side were soon dampened when TNS found an equaliser ten minutes after going behind. A dangerous run from former Wrexham winger Adrian Cieslewicz down the left flank allowed the Pole to whip a curling cross towards Greg Draper lurking in the penalty area. The New Zealand international made no mistake this time and directed his effort past Mike Platt to level things up after 25 minutes.

The New Saints 1 – 1 Holywell Town

With the league champions equalling the scoring up, Holywell almost successfully used the counter-attack to put themselves into the lead once again. Another ball over the top allowed Phil Lloyd to chase onto the forward pass, beating his marker for pace, and breaking clear towards goal. However the ball just wouldn’t fall kindly to the striker and he couldn’t get the connection he wanted as the onrushing Mullock managed to avert the danger by saving the ball with his legs.

The Wellmen would rue their missed opportunity as the home side soon took the lead in the match by exploiting a defensive error. Dafydd Griffith’s attempted clearance after a great save from Platt was agonisingly scuffed and the ball cruelly fell to the approaching Darlington in the area. This time he made no mistake as he picked his spot and put the Saints into the lead.

The New Saints 2 – 1 Holywell Town

Even though the Wellmen had found themselves in a losing position, the scoreline was close and chances were appearing throughout the half. No doubt they were eager to get to half-time with just the one goal deficit and perhaps change things up during the break. Alas the turning point of the match occurred in first half stoppage time when TNS got their third of the evening. A fantastic ball by Darlington, who was causing problems for the Holywell defence through his runs, managed to cross to ball to Draper, and the Kiwi striker calmly slotted the ball beyond Platt’s reach to complete his brace.

The New Saints 3 – 1 Holywell Town

The third goal was difficult to watch up on the balcony as I felt the team didn’t deserve to suffer that considering the effort they had produced in the first 45 minutes. However the goal was certainly a half-time tactics changer for John Haseldin, and something I mentioned on the radio. Despite working extremely hard in the first half, the Wellmen would now find themselves chasing a two goal deficit against the champions – an uphill challenge for the best of teams!

HALF TIME: THE NEW SAINTS 3 – 1 HOLYWELL TOWN

The Rev & I - I am holding a slice of the TNS Cake plus I had a mouthful of it also ha! Thanks to The Rev for allowing me to use the picture! https://dancinginthestreetsoftns.wordpress.com/2015/09/29/seven-goals-seven-tweets/
The Rev & I – I am holding a slice of the TNS Cake plus I had a mouthful of it also ha!
Thanks to The Rev for allowing me to use the picture!
https://dancinginthestreetsoftns.wordpress.com/2015/09/29/seven-goals-seven-tweets/

MATCH REPORT – SECOND HALF

For the early part of the second half, TNS had the majority of the possession. The third goal had changed their philosophy for the second half and they were comfortable in just keeping ball possession and a tight grip of their lead. Through their consistent passing, which was almost mesmeric at times, they managed to probe the Holywell defensive line looking for the next opening, whilst making their opposition chase the ball and thus tire them out quicker. They managed a couple of half-chances at goal but failed to threaten the Holywell goal for the time being.

Because of the home side’s dominance in possession, Holywell’s first chance of the second half didn’t appear until fifteen minutes into the half and just about on the hour mark. A superb breakaway from Davidson allowed him to cross the ball into the penalty area where Lloyd had found some space. Alas the cross curled a little too close to the keeper’s position and Mullock was able to gather up the cross. They would get another better chance a couple of minutes later through a set-piece. TNS conceded a free-kick about 35 yards away from their goal, allowing Steve Thomas to arc a cross into the crowd in the penalty box. The captain Tom McElmeel managed to peel away from his mark to get a free header on goal, but unfortunately his bullet effort was inches wide of the post. Holywell were playing well to continually threaten the TNS defence!

A couple of minutes after Holywell has almost made the scoreline an interesting 3-2, then TNS went up the other end and ended the match as contest for the evening with the best goal of the night. After a cross had been launched into the centre of the Holywell penalty box, Draper managed to control then flick the ball up around the penalty spot area, before turning and smashing the ball on the volley into the top left corner of the goal! Platt had no chance of saving the effort! An incredible finish from a player who was becoming clinical this evening and a well worthy goal to complete his hat-trick and give TNS a three goal cushion.

The New Saints 4 – 1 Holywell Town

A few minutes after the home side had scored their fourth goal of the evening then they were celebrating scoring their fifth goal of the match. Again it would be the prolific Draper who would punish the Holywell defence and would score his fourth goal against the Wellmen. The New Zealander struck a shot from the edge of the penalty box and it managed to fly into the bottom corner of the net, although it took a wicked deflection off a defender which left Platt wrong-footed and sent him the wrong way.  A cruel goal to concede for the visitors but Draper was proving unstoppable this game!

The New Saints 5 – 1 Holywell Town

Despite now being 5-1 down, Holywell’s heads did not drop and they continued to attack at the TNS defence to their huge credit despite the fitness levels between the professional and semi-professional teams becoming increasingly apparent. Phil Lloyd almost managed to claw back a consolation goal when another of his trademark surging runs allowed him to break clear of the home defensive line, although Mullock was equal to the low shot and saved through a diving save.

Alas for the Wellmen, TNS’ fitness levels were starting to prove crucial and they soon scored a flattering sixth goal, and it would through that man again, Greg Draper. TNS’ own Lewandowski managed his “fünferpack” (the German word for “five goals scored” – something I mentioned on the radio) and again it was cruel on the visitors. A superb cross from the substitute Ryan Edwards managed to find the striker in the middle of the penalty area, and Draper managed to strike a firm low shot towards the centre of the goal. Even though his shot was partially saved by Platt’s legs, the ball had just enough velocity behind it to allow the ball to slowly sneak over the goalline.

The New Saints 6 – 1 Holywell Town

With only five minutes remaining and the home side went looking for their seventh goal of the night and had a couple of chances to extend their lead. Firstly an ill-timed slip by Peter Hoy allowed Ryan Edwards to run through on goal in a one-on-one situation. With just Platt to beat, Edwards failed to test the keeper as his effort scorched just wide of the post – a let-off for the Wellmen after a defensive error. Then a Chris Marriott free-kick from a central area and about 25 yards out had Platt beaten, but the Saints’ midfielder could only see his curling shot cannon back off the post.

Holywell continued to threaten on the counter-attack and almost caught TNS napping when Tony Roebuck had space to hit a targeted shot, but again Mullock kept out the Wellmen and superbly saved Roebuck’s effort.

With the game coming to an end, the rout would be completed by The New Saints as they finally achieved their seventh goal of the game deep into injury time. Substitute Scott Quigley added to the Wellmen’s woes through a powerful effort which left Platt stranded and was the cherry on top for TNS’s victory cake!

The New Saints 7 – 1 Holywell Town

The goal would be the final action of the game as the referee blew his whistle and ended the contest. TNS would be heading the quarter finals of the League Cup!

FULL TIME: THE NEW SAINTS 7 – 1 HOLYWELL TOWN

Even though the scoreline would tell a different story, Holywell did not disgrace them against the treble winning league champions. They had been equal to them throughout the first half and part of the second half. Unfortunately conceding the third goal before half time was a killer blow, and the difference between the fitness of two teams was ultimately crucial during the final 20 minutes of the game. Plus TNS had a player who was in scintillating form with Greg Draper who scored with nearly every effort on goal, and would be the decisive factor for the champions.

Despite the scoreline, I absolutely loved being part of TNS Radio and sharing the mic with The Rev and Sam and couldn’t stop smiling even when the Saints’ goals were flying in! I would like to say a massive thank you to The Rev & Sam for allowing me to go onto their broadcast, as well as everyone else at TNS who gave me a warm welcome and were fantastic hosts. Hopefully I will be returning back to Park Hall very soon in the future, and perhaps appearing back on the radio if I am allowed to! I have yet to watch a women’s football match yet so perhaps I will travelling down to watch the TNS’s women’s team play!

[By the way if any other team would allow me to appear on their radio broadcasts, I would happy to do so! 😉 ]

After bidding my farewells to The Rev & Sam, who were off to interview manager Craig Harrison and man of the match Greg Draper, and grabbing a second slice of the fantastic TNS Radio cake,  I set off home with a smile on my face trying to contemplate the whole evening. Even though it looked a bad defeat, I was proud of Holywell’s efforts on the evening and really sunk home how far the team had progressed in the past 5 years! Keep it going lads, the journey has been incredible so far!

I would like to wish everyone involved with The New Saints all the very best for the rest of the season – I think it’s going to take a monumental effort for anyone to topple them in any of the three competitions!!

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  1. […] On the route down, we travelled through the important footballing village of Llansantffraid-ym-Mechain. For those of you aware of Welsh football, you’ll know the significance of this northern Powys village. However if you’re not, the village is origin to the roots of The New Saints, the current dominant force of Welsh football. Originating from this village in the form of their previous guise of Llansantffraid FC, before becoming TNS Llansantffraid and then Total Network Soulutions FC, they won numerous leagues title and cups before merging with Oswestry Town and moving to their current home of Park Hall [more information on TNS can be found here]. […]

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  2. […] Llansantffraid Football Club would change its name to Total Network Solutions F.C. the following year and would win a further Welsh Cup in 2005 under that name, as well as winning four league championships between 2000 and 2007. However in 2003, the club had merged with nearby side Oswestry Town, and in 2007 The New Saints (the current name for the team) would move from their historic home of The Recreation Ground (also known as “Treflan”) and out of the village (and Wales for that matter) altogether to Oswestry Town’s former home of Park Hall. Situated 10,5 miles north-west of Treflan, the new ground had a 3G pitch and fulfilled the WPL and UEFA Standards, something which the council-owned Treflan was unfortunately not. For further information about The New Saints, see my groundhopping blog about them here. […]

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