TNS – headed for sainthood tonight?

Posted on August 26, 2010


By Luke James

WHEN The New Saints shipped three goals in the last ten minutes of their UEFA Europa League qualifying clash with CSKA Sofia last Thursday not many punters will have rushed to the nearest bookies to put money on them progressing to the next round.

With barely 9 minutes left on the clock in Sofia’s Vasil Levski Stadium the Welsh champions were on the verge of sparking, as Jeff Stelling famously remarked, “dancing in the streets of Total Network Solutions.”

However, the natural order of things was duly and cruelly restored in the closing plays, not once, not twice but three times to effectively end the Saints dreams of reaching the Europa League group stage.

The scoreboard doesn't tell the full story

But if you thought this tie was over bar the shouting the border clubs manager Mike Davies is adamant his lads “are hungry and they’ve got a point to prove” and you know what, I think they might just prove it.

The problem Sofia face is that should they under estimate this shouting that awaits them tonight at Wrexham, three goals to the good or not, they could be next in a string of clubs to leave Wales red faced.

Bangor City brought CS Maritimo, a club who can boast Portuguese legends Paulo Alves and Jorge Costa amongst their alumni, down to earth with a bang when they took the lead at the Racecourse in an earlier round of the competition.

The Citizens eventually went down 2-1 but it was a spirited display after a heavy 8-2 scoreline was inflicted on them in the first leg.

And that wasn’t the first time in recent history that a Welsh club has succumbed to a painful defeat in the away leg which has spurred them on to achieving a better result at home.

Nine years and 24 days ago Barry Town were nine goals down on aggregate in the second leg at Jenner Park and with only 18 minutes on the clock it seemed like an evening of pain awaited them.

A team featuring Jorge Costa, Carvallo and Olivera were making a mockery of the club who had dominated the Welsh Premier League since its inception in 1992.

That was before goals from Lee Phillips, Mike Flynn and Gary Lloyd sealed a great Welsh win. A win that sustained Barry Town supporters during their clubs baron period in the lower reaches of the Welsh pyramid.

Barry Town's Mike Flynn celebrates after his goal against Porto

But in the week of Brian Clark’s funeral I cant fail to mention the greatest achievement of any Welsh club in European competition. It was Clark’s header which sent over forty thousand bluebird fans crammed onto the terraces of Ninian Park ballistic and Real Madrid back to Spain with their tail between their legs.

If that famous result against the galacticos of Real Madrid only adds sentimental value to tonight’s tie then consider The New Saints 4-0 win against Bohemians just over a month ago during Champions League qualifying.

Trailing by a single goal from the first leg a TNS quadruple was enough to see them through that round and will be enough to complete an astonishing turn around this evening.

Two other factors will give The New Saints hope – CSKA are leaderless after their manager, Pavel Dochev, resigned before the first leg and the Racecourse pitch will be cut up after the Wrexham match on Tuesday and bad weather.

Add the inspiration of Clark, Barry Town, battling Bangor and Davies and his side might just be headed for sainthood.