Kai Edwards scored the opener
The New Saints cut the gap at the top of the Welsh Premier League to three points after beating Afan Lido 3-0 thanks to a goal from Kai Edwards and a brace from Alex Darlington.
With a minute to go before the half time break, Edwards opened the scoring and a minute after the break Darlington doubled the lead. Late on Darlington added another with a superb close range finish to give The Saints the three points.
The Saints started well with Greg Draper, Jamie Mullan and Aeron Edwards all having early shots from close range but with the visitors having everyone behind the ball it was difficult for Craig Harrison’s men to find a way through.
However, with The Saints controlling the game, the stubborn Lido remained disciplined and with ten minutes to go until half time, Chris Jones nearly opened the scoring. The former Swansea City winger somehow managed to direct his curling corner onto the post and unluckily for TNS, the ball amazingly bounced out, before the visitors were able to clear.
Minutes before the break Edwards smashed an unstoppable strike into the top corner. The powerful defender found himself in space on the edge of the box and unleashed an incredible shot which flew past Richards, to give the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League Champions a deserved half time lead.
Three minutes into the second half and the Oswestry based side doubled the lead. Chris Seargeant delivered a superb ball into the box and Darlington made no mistake by coolly converting his header into the top corner.
Soon after Mullan found Jones unmarked at the back post but the former Grimsby Town man was unable to connect properly with the ball and watched his shot go just wide of the near post.
With half an hour to play the speedy Jones expertly crossed into the six yard box and Draper was only inches from adding a third goal. A minute later and Mullan found the New Zealand International with a great pull back and the fully stretched striker was unlucky to see his effort go just over the bar.
Darlington then completed his brace with brilliant finish from close range. The former Wrexham man tucked the ball under Richards from close range and watched the ball roll over the line to give his team a comfortable lead.
The Champions controlled the rest of the game by maintaining possession and despite Darlington testing Richards again, The New Saints secured a second win in a row and continued their wonderful home record.
TNS’s Director of Football Craig Harrison, later spoke with WPL reporter Robert Clement in the Park Hall Media Suite, with him being asked if he agreed that they were made to work hard to gain the points, especially during the first forty five minutes?
“Yes, definitely, Afan Lido came here and they were disciplined, knew their job and they dropped deep, but we kept possession and we knew that we would get an opening, and it came with a great move just before half rime from Kai Edwards; he’s had a great strike and it’s opened the whole game up, and obviously Afan Lido had to come out after that”.
Anytime is a great time to score a goal, but especially before halftime, physiologically do you think that it was a major concern for Afan Lido?
“I think that the two goals that were scored, firstly just before the interval, and then early into the second half were great timed ones, but probably they were in the dressing room to be told that they’ve had a goal scored against them, so then they would have to come back out and start well”.
“We add a second goal within three minutes of the second half, so I think that after that, possession wise we had probably 70-80%, but that doesn’t mean anything, we have to work for our goals, and Afan Lido made sure we did just that”.
“We were then looking to add a few more, with us in control of the game, but the final twenty minutes was a very open game, with some tired legs out there”.
With a Chris Budrys goal providing Airbus with victory at Bangor last night, was there added pressure on the team, with the gap opening up to six points?
“The pressure that everyone at the club has got from the top to the bottom is there all the time, so it doesn’t really matter. We’re expected to win every single game home and away and we have done for a long time, before I was here and certainly since then, and I think that it’s over eleven months at home, where we’ve won every single game”.
You mentioned the home form, with it being last November when you lost to Carmarthen here, four out of four this season with GAP Connah’s Quay here next week. How much of a factor will the home form have on retaining the title?
“I think historically it’ll be huge, and the aim is of winning as many as possible, but if you can’t win, don’t get beat”.
He added, “The four home games we’ve had, we’ve not conceded a goal, so we’ve performed very strongly and that has been the situation going back ten years, so it’s always a fortress here, and I don’t think that anyone likes to come here”.
Afan Lido manager Paul Evans then spoke of the difficulty of competing against the in-form champions, but somehow his players showed great character and passion in the first half?
“Yes they did, and I’m very proud of them with it taking forty four minutes to break us down. We came here with a game plan, and it was working to our benefit with a couple of chances to breakaway, but the timing of the opening goal has really killed us”.
How frustrating was it to concede that goal?
“It’s just one moment, we switched off a little bit and it’s a great strike, so were disappointed to come in at half-time, but I then tried to get their heads up for the second half”
Despite having gone behind, the swift second one was a killer blow?
Yes, I certainly didn’t think that we had much given to us today from the officials, but obviously we had to deal with that situation and we didn’t. We let Chris Seargeant get off our shoulder and Alex Darlington has a free header to finish it well”.
Three points out of a possible thirty, is this a relegation battle already?
“Of course it is, we have to be honest with ourselves, we’ve got a big task ahead for the next few months, but we have to keep on being positive. The boy’s have been excellent in training, the attitude here today was great with nobody expecting us to get anything”.
“We have to keep doing the right things, and I know that when we get that first win, we’ll progress and continue with a few more after that”.
You’re five points behind Bala, two wins and you’re back in contention?
There’s not a great distance between us at the moment, so it’s still there and up for grabs. We’ve had a good conversation in the dressing room after the game, and we have to look at our commitment and take that into the Carmarthen game next Friday; it doesn’t get any easier, they’re a very good side and we have to take the game to them, and get something out of it”.
What would that first victory mean, confidence wise, would it help you to go on a run then?
“I hope so, the boy’s are confident now in the way they’re playing and working hard; it’s just getting that vital three points, and when that comes hopefully it will kick-start our season and put us on a good little run”.
“I’m aware that other teams have previously got that vital run like Bala did last season, and the aim is to go forward with three or four good results, so we just need that ball to go into the back of the net, and then we’ll all be happy”.