Newtown Shock Saints

THE NEW SAINTS 1-2 NEWTOWN DAFABET WELSH PREMIER LEAGUE – CHAMPIONSHIP CONFERENCE PLAYED AT PARK HALL STADIUM, OSWESTRY SATURDAY 26TH MARCH 2016

MATCH REPORT BY STATTO

The New Saints’ hopes of winning the Dafabet Welsh Premier League title took a dent after they crashed to a dramatic 1-2 home defeat by local rivals Newtown in front of the live S4C cameras at Park Hall Stadium on Saturday evening.

Not only did Craig Harrison’s side suffer a second consecutive league defeat for the first time since November 2011 but it ended their 3 and a half year long 56 game unbeaten home run, dating back to 24th November 2012.

Saints had gone into the weekend’s round of games with an 8 point lead over title rivals Bala Town with just 4 league games left to play. A Bala draw or defeat at home to Airbus UK Broughton on Good Friday afternoon would have left the defending champions needing to win against Newtown on Saturday to lift their 5th consecutive title.

However, The Lakesiders’ 3-1 win over Airbus meant that even if Saints had beaten Newtown, they couldn’t clinch the title on Saturday.

This defeat plus Bala’s win on Friday means that Saints’ lead over The Lakesiders is cut to just 5 points with 3 games to play and throws the title race wide open.

It also adds extra spice to Saints’ next league game at home to The Lakesiders at Park Hall on Saturday 9th April, which will now have a 5.15pm kick off so it can be shown live by S4C.

Meanwhile, it was not only The Robins’ first league win since the mid-season split but only their second ever league win at Park Hall, the other coming with a 1-0 success in October 2012.

The first chance came Saints’ way in the 4th minute when Jamie Mullan ran forward in midfield before feeding Adrian Cieslewicz on the left, who cut in between Robins defenders Craig Williams and Scott Ryan in the left hand corner of the box before laying the ball back to Ryan Brobbel whose left foot shot from the left corner of the D went not far wide of Newtown keeper Dave Jones’ right hand post.

Then at the same end in the 8th minute, Aeron Edwards passed infield from the left to Mullan some 30 yards out, who ran forward 2 or 3 paces before having his right foot shot from 25 yards easily held by Jones.

Saints went close again in the 11th minute when Simon Spender’s forward pass on the right found Greg Draper whose back-heel found the on-running Aeron Edwards, whose long cross-field ball over the top from the middle found Cieslewicz just outside the front left of the box and after falling to Williams whose attempted clearance hit Ryan outside the right of the box, the ball dropped to Chris Marriott who squared to his right to Cieslewicz who cut in across the outside of the box before laying off to his right for Aeron Edwards, whose right foot shot from 28 yards was superbly pushed away with his right hand past his right hand angle by Jones for a corner.

Then in the 16th minute with Saints having had the best of the play, Newtown took the lead when a Robins clearance forward from the left found Tom Goodwin who fed Neil Mitchell on the left, who ran past Phil Baker before passing forward to Matty Owen who turned Kai Edwards on the edge of the D before firing his low left foot shot from 20 yards past Saints keeper Paul Harrison and into his right hand corner.

Saints went close to an equaliser in the 22nd minute when Brobbel’s low through ball found the unmarked Marriott on the left, whose cross to the far post was only half cleared to Chris Seargeant whose first time ball forward found Brobbel just inside the front of the box and he took a touch before having his right foot shot from 16 yards parried over the bar by Jones for a corner.

The hosts went even closer in the 36th minute when Aeron Edwards’ low ball found Spender on the right who cut into the right hand corner of the box before laying the ball back to Aeron Edwards, whose low right foot shot from the edge of the D hit the outside of the foot of Jones’ left hand post with the keeper rooted.

Then at the same end 3 minutes later, Seargeant’s corner from the left to the far post saw the unmarked Kai Edwards somehow glance his free header from 3 yards out wide of Jones’ left hand post with the goal at his mercy.

Saints went close again in the 41st minute when Marriott’s low through ball found Cieslewicz on the left, who held it up before passing low infield to Marriott just inside the box, who laid it back to Seargeant whose low right foot shot from 25 yards went not far wide of Jones’ right hand post.

Saints went even closer a minute later when Kai Edwards ran forward on the left before passing forward to Aeron Edwards, whose deft back-heel in the left hand corner of the box beat Owen to find the on-running Kai Edwards, whose low left foot shot from 12 yards went across the face of the goal and only just past Jones’ left hand post.

Another chance came Saints’ way in the 44th minute when Cieslewicz cut into the left of the box and beat 2 men before having his right foot shot from 8 yards near the left corner of the 6 yard box well blocked by Kieran Mills-Evans for a corner.

Then with the 4th Official having indicated that there would be a minimum of 2 minutes added time at the end of the half, Saints equalised after 90 seconds of those 2 minutes in somewhat controversial fashion. A great low reverse ball on the left found Brobbel inside the left of the box who ran towards the byeline before seeing his driven cross go into the net from 2 yards out at the near post off Mullan. Furious Newtown players claimed handball against Mullan and although TV replays from the camera behind the goal confirmed that the ball went in off Mullan’s right arm, neither referee Huw Jones or his assistant had spotted it and the goal stood.

Saints had enjoyed the greater possession of the first half but had been frustrated by a resilient Robins.

The first chance of the second half came Saints’ way in the 50th minute when Marriott’s low corner from the right found Seargeant 20 yards out, whose right foot curling shot towards Jones’ right hand post was pushed out by the keeper before the ball was cleared by former Saints defender Rob Williams.

Saints went close in the 55th minute when Baker’s low through ball on the right found Brobbel who took a touch and turned before sending a low through ball down the right to Mullan in acres of space, who ran into the box towards the right hand corner of the 6 yard box and stood Jones up before having his low right foot shot cleared off the line by Mills-Evans.

Then at the same end in the 60th minute, Seargeant’s low forward pass in midfield found Marriott who turned before sending a low through ball to Aeron Edwards inside the right of the box, who sidestepped Mitchell before sending his curling left foot shot from 15 yards not far wide of Jones’ right hand post.

Then 2 minutes later, Newtown took the lead again when Marriott’s back pass to Harrison was only half cleared by the keeper to Craig Williams who steered the ball forward to Scott Ryan, who ran forward on the right before squaring to Owen who took a couple of paces forward before sending his left foot shot from just over 25 yards screaming into Harrison’s right hand corner for a stunning strike.

The next chance came Saints’ way in the 69th minute when a high hanging cross from the right by Aeron Edwards towards the far post found Kai Edwards, who sent his header from 9 yards wide of Jones’ right hand post.

Saints made a double change in the 70th minute with Scott Quigley replacing Draper and Matty Williams replacing Cieslewicz, although Williams was forced to wait a further 2 minutes before being allowed onto the field of play after having to sort some strapping on a finger.

Then in the 71st minute, Mullan’s pass infield from the right found Spender who cut in towards the box before finding Quigley who went down in the box under challenge from Mills-Evans but referee Jones said no penalty and waved away the hosts claims for what may have been a soft penalty.

Saints continued to dominate the half and went close again in the 76th minute when Seargeant’s low forward pass found Aeron Edwards who took a touch before having his low through ball towards Matty Williams headed clear to Seargeant, who won a challenge with sub Matty Cook before seeing his right foot half volley from 27 yards take a deflection off a Robins defender on its way to being tipped over the bar by Jones for a corner.

Then 2 minutes later, Marriott’s low through ball found Seargeant on the left who passed infield to the on-running Marriott who ran forward into the box before having his left foot shot from 16 yards held by Jones.

A great chance came Newtown’s way in the 83rd minute as the visitors broke with Owen’s low through ball finding Luke Boundford in space on the left, who ran into the box and sidestepped Baker before taking a touch and sending his right foot curling shot from 15 yards just over the bar.

What amounted to Saints’ last chance of a face-saving equaliser came a couple of seconds into the last minute of normal time at the end when Marriott sent a free kick from 25 yards over the wall but over the bar at Jones’ left hand angle.

With the 4th official having indicated there would be a minimum of 3 minutes of added time at the and, Newtown almost added a third goal nearly 3 and a half minutes into added time when sub Sean Evans’ free kick from 25 yards on the left was saved to his left by Harrison.

Seconds later, the final blast of referee Jones’ whistle confirmed not only the end of Saints’ long unbeaten home run but Newtown’s first league win since the mid-season split, which it has to be said was thoroughly deserved.

Craig Harrison’s side must now pick themselves up for not only their JD FAW Welsh Cup Semi Final against Gap Connah’s Quay at Newtown’s Paveaways Latham Park on Saturday (2nd April, 5.15pm) but their crunch title showdown with Bala Town at Park Hall on Saturday 9th April (5.15pm).

A win for Saints that day is a must if they are to avoid the title race going down to the wire for their final 2 games after that.

Saints: Paul Harrison, Simon Spender, Chris Marriott, Phil Baker, Kai Edwards, Chris Seargeant, Ryan Brobbel, Greg Draper, Jamie Mullan, Adrian Cieslewicz, Aeron Edwards. Subs: Matty Williams (for Cieslewicz 70), Connell Rawlinson (not used), Ryan Edwards (not used), Mike Wilde (for Aeron Edwards 81), Scott Quigley (for Draper 70), Ryan Pryce (not used), Andy Wycherley (GK (not used).

Robins: Dave Jones, Rob Williams, Stef Edwards, Matty Owen, Kieran Mills-Evans, Luke Boundford, Neil Mitchell, Scott Ryan, Craig Williams, Tom Goodwin, Jamie Tolley. Subs: Matty Cook (for Tolley 60), Francis Barr (not used), Sean Evans (for Ryan 81), Jack Hughes (not used).