Swift Hesper vs Telford - Match preview
The New Saints are hoping to keep their European football adventure alive with their trip to Luxembourg today for the Europa Conference League second leg.
Craig Harrison’s side are set to take on Swift Hesper in the second round of qualifying and after the first 90 minutes of the clash last week at Park Hall the sides are even with it all to play for.
The first leg was a keenly-contested encounter that finished 1-1 after defender Simao had given the visitors the lead in the 14th minute from a set piece – firing past Connor Roberts from close range.
But summer signing Rory Holden earned his side a draw 16 minutes from time when firing home from the edge of the box, netting his first goal for the club.
TNS have skipper Roberts to thank for still being in the tie after he saved Dominik Stolz’s spot-kick 10 minutes after the interval and it leaves it all to play for when the two sides meet again at 7pm this evening.
The last time Harrison’s men went on the road was in the Champions League when they lost 3-1 to BK Hacken on their travels.
Declan McManus – who scored their only goal in that game and is the Saints’ talisman – has been struggling with injury of late.
He did not make an appearance in the return leg of the Champions League tie against Hacken.
But McManus was fit enough to make a substitute appearance against Swift last time out as he came on in the 58th minute as a replacement for Ryan Brobbel.
Whether he has felt any ill effects from that game remains to be seen – with him being such an important player for TNS if he is near fit you would have thought Harrison will select him.
Jon Routledge, who started the home tie against BK Hacken, but went off midway through the first half with a muscle injury, will still be battling to recover in time for this clash. Speaking before the first leg of the tie Harrison could not hide his frustration with the injuries they are coping with at the moment while playing such good opposition.
While Saints were crowned JD Cymru Premier champions for the 15th time last season, it was a first national title for Swift Hesper.
The winners of the tie will progress to play either FC Struga from Macedonia or Buducnost Podgorica of Montenegro in the third qualifying round of the Europa Conference League.
The next time TNS will be in action after this clash will see them return to their routine domestic competitions and their first game is in the Welsh Cup.
They are set to take on Connah’s Quay at Park Hall in the second round of that before they then take them on again a week later in the first clash of the new Welsh Premier League season.
TNS will be searching for their 16th title.