Scott Ruscoe proud as Euro adventure ends for TNS
Scott Ruscoe insisted he was proud of the efforts of The New Saints as their European campaign came to an end, writes Stuart Dunn.
Ludogorets, champions of Bulgaria for the last eight seasons, underlined their quality by beating Saints 4-0 at Wrexham to progress 9-0 on aggregate in the Europa League third qualifying round tie.
But Saints can take plenty of positives from playing six more games in Europe this summer, beating Kosovan side Feronikeli, before losing over two legs to Danish giants FC Copenhagen in the Champions League.
“I thought second half we were a lot better,” said boss Ruscoe, reflecting on the second leg against a strong Ludogorets side featuring a number of internationals. “I’ve gone in there after the game and said I’m proud of what we’ve done since we came back on June 3.
“We’ve played some excellent friendlies, two very good ties against the Kosovans and the Danish side and this one, these two games, have been a bit frustrating.
“If you look at the goals we’ve conceded, look how we’ve approached the game and whatever, we were just lacking a little bit of belief and not quite thinking that we’re up to their standard maybe, which we aren’t, but I think if you believe you are, it will get you a long way and I just think too many didn’t quite have that belief or hunger about their game.”
Ludogorets carried a threat throughout the first half before the opening goal arrived in the 36th minute, Polish international Jakub Swierczok firing low past goalkeeper Paul Harrison.
They doubled their advantage six minutes later as Jody Lukoki found the bottom corner of the net.
The New Saints worked a good opening for Ryan Brobbel early in the second half, but he was unable to hit the target.
Brobbel then fired a free-kick over the bar before going much closer when his low curling effort was pushed behind for a corner by goalkeeper Renan.
The visitors increased their lead to 3-0 in the 77th minute, Swierczok heading in.
Ludogorets added a late fourth in stoppage time, the goal of the night, as sub Dan Biton curled an unstoppable effort from 20 yards to the top corner of the net.
The New Saints: Harrison, Harrington, Hudson, Davies, Lewis, Mullan (Whitehouse 74), Edwards, Redmond, Brobbel (Cieslewicz 78), Ebbe (Byrne 68).
Subs not used: Spender, Draper, Nembhard, Roberts.