Scott Ruscoe full of pride for The New Saints’ fightback
Proud boss Scott Ruscoe said The New Saints answered their doubters after coming agonisingly close to a famous Champions League comeback against KF Shkendija at Park Hall.
Trailing 5-0 after a below par first leg display in Macedonia, the Saints had it all to do – but came within a whisker of a dramatic turnaround when sweeping aside their visitors 4-0 in the return.
In the end, it was not to be as the Welsh Premier champions bowed out 5-4 on aggregate in the first qualifying round of this season’s competition.
But Ruscoe could not have asked for much more from his side, who made the running throughout in a performance that made a mockery of the week before.
“The players did ever so well, and I’m proud of them all,” he said. “No-one would have given us much chance before the game, but in the end we were disappointed not to get over the line.
“It’s one of the best performances you’ll see from a TNS team in Europe and we controlled the game from start to finish.
“We showed what a good side we are, looked fit and strong, and a performance like that helps us get over the week before when we did not perform.”
He added: “We now go again in the Europa League next week, and if we play like that, then we should have a good chance.”
The Saints scored three times in the first half through Dean Ebbe and new signings Danny Redmond and Ben Cabango to give themselves real hope.
TNS continued to threaten after the break and Routledge volleyed against the post.
Shkendija, by now down to 10 men due to injury, were hanging on in a frantic finish, and survived strong appeals for handball on the line before sub Kurtis Byrne converted a cross in the closing moments to reduce the arrears further.
In the end, it was not to be for the Saints, but their performance will give them plenty of confidence for next Thursday’s Europa League second qualifying round clash with Gibraltar high fliers Lincoln Red Imps at Park Hall.
Irish striker Ebbe sent Saints on their way, scoring the first goal, and he commended the rest of the team for their incredible spirit and determination.
“We are all obviously disappointed, but hopefully we can bring this type of form into the Europa League next week,” he said.
“The lads were brilliant from start to finish. All we could do was give 100 percent and we did exactly that. We were just unfortunate to miss out in the end.
“Everyone was just up for it because we were 5-0 down, so we gave it everything we had, but unfortunately we were just unlucky on the night and couldn’t turn the tie around.”