The New Saints beat Birmingham City by three goals to one in an entertaining friendly at Park Hall Stadium.
The Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League Champions opened the scoring thanks to Alex Darlington in the 30th minute and ten minutes later, Scott Quigley made it two nil. Callum Reilly pulled a goal back in the second half but a minute later, Darlington completed his brace.
The Saints started brightly against a very strong Birmingham side and nearly opened the scoring but Mike Wilde’s shot was deflected out for a corner after he had been picked out by the impressive Quigley.
Soon after, the visitors won a dangerous free kick on the edge of the box but Olly Lee’s free kick was blocked by the tall TNS wall.
Craig Harrison’s Saints controlled the opening stages of the game and looked threatening in the final third with the visitors rarely pushing forward.
Midway through the first half, Wilde spun in the box and fired a powerful shot just wide of the goal with Colin Doyle beaten as TNS continued to apply pressure.
A minute later Darlington found himself in space on the edge of the box but his tame shot was straight at Doyle and the Republic of Ireland international comfortably kept it out.
Half an hour into the game and the deadlock was broken. Darlington ended up finishing off a brilliant flowing move that started with Chris Marriott. The left back found Aeron Edwards who picked out Adrian Cieslewicz in space. The Polish winger played a neat ball into the path of Darlington, who made no mistake from close range to beat Doyle and give The Saints the lead.
Exactly ten minutes later, The Saints doubled their advantage. Darlington did well to set up Quigley with an open goal and the powerful forward smashed it in from four yards out to ensure that TNS led going into the break.
The second half started with Sam Finley and Greg Draper replacing Aeron Edwards and Wilde and within minutes the Blues nearly pulled a goal back. Danny Johnstone headed against the post and the ball bounced clear.
In two crazy second half minutes, two more goals were scored. Firstly, Chris Mullock’s pass was cut out by Reilly who calmly slotted in from the edge of the box, with the goal wide open.
However, seconds later, Darlington restored the two goal advantage. Finley was unlucky to see his clever shot rattle against the bar but as the ball bounced down, Darlington was able to poke it in and complete his brace.
With Birmingham pressing higher and higher as the game went on, The Saints’ defence were having to cope with a lot more but on the counter attack, Quigley nearly completed a brace of his own. Finley’s wonderful pass was met by the winger but his shot was well kept out by Doyle.
The Saints began to regain control of the game with some brilliant passing and Ryan Edwards nearly added a fourth goal in the 87th minute. The young midfielder was played in by Darlington and was extremely unlucky to see his controlled effort roll onto the post and bounce out.
As the game entered stoppage time, Darlington attempted to score a hat-trick but his free kick went over the bar.
Full time: TNS 3-1 Birmingham City.
The New Saints: Chris Mullock, Simon Spender (Kai Edwards 79), Chris Marriott (Luke Douglas 79), Phil Baker, Connell Rawlinson, Alex Darlington, Aeron Edwards (Sam Finley 46) Ryan Edwards, Mike Wilde (Greg Draper 46), Scott Quigley (Scott Ruscoe 77) and Adrian Cieslewicz (Ryan Pryce ).
The unused substitutes were Luke Douglas, Paul Harrison, Steve Evans, Kai Edwards and Ryan Pryce.
The Birmingham team was Colin Doyle, Jonathon Spector (Nat Kelly 55), Mitch Hancox (Bob Moseley 71) Reece Webb, James Fry, Charlie Adams, Liam Truslove, Callum Reilly, Denny Johnstone, Olly Lee and Navid Nasseri.
On the bench for Birmingham were Connell Truslove, George McGee, Luke Armstrong, Josh Cogley and Viv Solomon.