Sunday, August 21, 2011
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Saints held on night of missed chances

THE New Saints were forced to settle for a 1-1 Europa League draw with Cliftonville on a night when missed chances proved costly.

Alex Darlington gave the Saints the perfect start with a 27th-minute individual effort, but a bolt from the blue from defensive midfielder Barry Johnston levelled the scores to leave the tie finely balanced ahead of next week's second leg in Belfast.
After keeper Ryan Brown had been forced to parry a Craig Jones effort on the quarter-hour, Chris Sharp netted the rebound only to be ruled offside. But the hosts got the goal their early play deserved when Darlington latched on to an Aeron Edwards through ball before neatly side-stepping his marker and netting from 12 yards.
TNS were hardly troubled by the Ulsterman but were given a wake-up call six minutes before the break when sloppy marking allowed an unmarked Johnston time to pick his spot from 30 yards and send a rocket into the top corner.
George McMullen saw an early second-half piledriver well blocked by Phil Baker but Sharp should have restored the home lead, spooning his shot over the bar from six yards out when a Simon Spender cross eluded the home defence.
A quickly-taken throw by Jones found Sharp whose shot from a narrow angle was well beaten away by Brown, but TNS found it difficult to pierce the ranked masses of the Clifonville rearguard.
The introduction of Richie Partridge and Greg Draper added more menace after a long spell in which both sides offered little threat
Edwards headed wide from a Partridge cross, Darlington also missed the target with a header, but the best chance fell to Draper, who headed straight at the keeper two minutes from time.
Partridge rifled a 30-yarder inches wide but what proved to be the visitors' only serious effort of the game was enough to earn a draw.
Photo: Alex Darlington gives the Saints the lead.

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