Friday, July 23, 2010
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Saints end 14-year European hoodoo

THE New Saints ended 14 years of European heartache with a crushing 4-0 Champions League defeat of Irish champions Bohemian at a rain-soaked Park Hall.


In the process, they became only the second Welsh Premier side (after Barry Town) to win a tie in Europe's premier club competition and have guaranteed a mouth-watering clash with Anderlecht, with a Europa League play-off game to follow, even if they lose to the Belgian giants.
The Saints may have been guilty of missing chances in the first leg in Dublin, but they were clinical on their own pitch and it took them just six minutes to cancel out the one goal deficit.
Matty Williams split the visitors' defence with a superb through ball to Craig Jones who held off defenders before toe-poking the ball past keeper Barry Murphy.
It took a superb one-handed save from keeper Paul Harrison to keep out Paddy Madden's close range header following a Killian Brennan cross before the advantage was doubled on 14 minutes.
Steve Evans found Matthew Berkeley whose inside flick was taken on by Williams, who produced a cool finish into the bottom corner.
It got even better on 20 minutes as Craig Jones, who terrorised left-back Conor Powell until he was replaced at half-time, created the third for Chris Sharp with a cross from the byline to silence the 400 travelling supporters in a sell-out crowd of 1,056.
Only a last ditch tackle from Owen Heary stopped Sharp from adding a fourth, with Bohemians sniffing a chance when poor marking allowed a ball over the top to find Jason Byrne, but Phil Baker came to the rescue with a saving tackle.
The Irish enjoyed their best spell of the game after the break with a Brennan shot from Glenn Cronin's corner deflected over by Evans and Paul Keegan then hitting the top of the bar after pinball in the TNS box.
Harrison then produced another top-drawer save to keeper out a Keegan effort, but Bohemian's fate was sealed in the 73rd-minute when a Scott Ruscoe corner was headed on by Evans and Williams tucked-away a rebound off keeper Murphy's hand.
Saints' manager Mike Davies was understandably delighted: "We've often been told we don't score enough goals in Europe and tonight we put it right," he said.
"It was incredible to win 4-0 though against a team like Bohemians, they are a quality side but they struggled to adapt to the pitch.
"Everything worked well for us tonight, the hard work we put in paid off and I'm delighted for the lads and particularly delighted for the older lads who have played in Europe before like Paul Harrison, Steve Evans, Phil Baker, Barry Hogan, Scott Ruscoe, Tommy Holmes and Jamie Wood, for them I'm really pleased that we got this win tonight."
Photo: Chris Sharp celebrates with Matty Williams and Matthew Berkeley after scoring the third goal.

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