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THE second leg of our tie against Premier League giants Manchester City was the club's tenth appearance in a UEFA competition. The away game in Manchester finished in a 5-0 defeat, which unfortunately seems to be an all too familiar story on our recent travels through Europe.
Despite this string of poor results in UEFA competitions, it is still quite an achievement for a club of our size to have played so often in Europe, especially when you consider that it is only 14 years ago that we made the step up from amateur football.
The 1988/89 season proved to be a disappointment to say the least, ending with the Club in turmoil, and in real danger of folding. Because of these difficulties, an emergency meeting was called, which resulted in a number of new members being added to the existing committee. With this new committee the whole outlook of the Club was about to change. We continued to run a team in the local amateur league, but also took the bold step of entering a side higher up the Welsh pyramid system and into the Mid-Wales League.
That proved to be the first step on our meteoric rise to the Welsh Premier League, which was achieved in only four years.
The Committee members that made that decision back in July 1989 could never in their wildest dreams have envisaged what the Club would go on to achieve over the following years.
Our first success in the Welsh Premier came in 1995 when we won the League of Wales Cup, but even better was to follow the next season (1995/96) when we won the Welsh Cup at the old National Stadium in Cardiff (the last football match to be played there before its demolition).

Welcome to Poland

Welcome to Poland! The Ruch Chorzow fans greet Llansantffraid FC in 1996.

First European game
That win paved the way for our first ever entry into Europe, in the now defunct European Cup Winners’ Cup. The opponents that night were former 14-times Polish Champions, KS Ruch Chorzow, a highly rated team which included no less than five Polish internationals in their starting line-up. Due to the high standard of ground criteria needed to play in Europe our "home" leg was played at the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham.
The match started at a breathtaking pace, with the visitors applying early pressure which resulted in them taking a deserved lead as early as the sixth minute. After that goal, Ruch Chorzow rarely troubled us over the next hour, which gave us the confidence to push forward looking for an equaliser.
That equaliser eventually came in the 82nd minute and was just reward for the hard work we had put into the game.
The goal came as a result of a goalmouth scramble, when the ball broke to defender Aneurin Thomas whose fierce shot from outside the box was deflected past the keeper to put us all square on the night.
This stung the visitors into action once again, and they went all out to regain their lead, but some good strong defending managed to keep them out and make it a memorable start to our first ever European campaign.
Unfortunately, the outcome of the away match in Poland did not have a fairytale ending as we went out to a 5-0 defeat in front of a 7,000 crowd.
It may have ended in failure, but it was an unforgettable trip for both the players and supporters that made the long journey.
Aggregate score 1-5.
It was to be another four years before we qualified for Europe again, this time as a result of winning the League of Wales Championship under the leadership of the highly respected Andy Cale, one of the best ever League of Wales managers. Of course winning the league meant we were now entered into the European Champions’ League. Our opponents were the champions of Estonia, FC Levadia Maardu.
Despite including a number of internationals in their team, the match at Wrexham was a fairly even game, although we had to show a lot of character on the night to come from behind twice to earn a 2-2 draw. It was a match we could and possibly should have won. Anthony Wright and John Toner scored our goals, the latter in the dying minutes of the game.
The return trip to Estonia ended in a 4-0 defeat, although the scoreline hardly reflected the closeness of the game. Despite creating goal scoring opportunities of our own, we found ourselves 2-0 down mid-way through the second half. With nothing to lose we went looking for a way back into the game, only to be caught twice on the break in the dying minutes to finish off any lingering hopes we may have had of salvaging the tie.
Aggregate score 2-6.

Nick Welton attacks the Polonia defence

Nick Welton attacks the Polonia defence in Warsaw.

The following year (2001) we played in the UEFA Cup for the first time, the result of finishing runners-up in the Welsh Cup the previous season. For the second time in three attempts we faced Polish opposition again, this time Polonia Warsaw. Unlike our two previous attempts in Europe when we played the home leg first, we had to play the away leg first this time round.
Unfortunately, the results were once again similar to our two previous away legs in Europe, another 4-0 defeat. Regardless of what the score line may suggest, we actually played well, and the result does not justify our performance.
For a long time it looked as though we could have held out for a goalless draw, but it wasn't to be. Everything changed in the 70th minute when the home side took the lead from a corner.
With just five minutes to go they extended their lead to 2-0, before matters got much worse in injury time when they scored two more to give them a virtually unassailable lead for the second leg.
That return leg at Wrexham also ended in defeat, although it was a case of what might have been. John Toner and Tim Alexander both had great efforts, the latter hitting the crossbar with a well struck shot. But a goal either side of half-time was more than enough to send Polonia Warsaw into the next round.
Aggregate score 0-6.
Last season's UEFA Cup run ended in our biggest defeat in Europe so far, a 12-2 trouncing by Polish side Amica Wronki. They were quite literally in a different league to us, and our fate was sealed in the first leg in Poland when we lost 5-0. The home leg was played at Newtown's Latham Park, and although we started brightly, taking the lead twice during the first half through Steve Antrobus and John Toner goals, it was to prove to no avail, as our opponents forged on to win the game 7-2. Amica Wronki made it through to the last sixteen of the competition, knocking out Leeds United's conquerors on the way!
Aggregate score 2-12.
Our first leg at Manchester City was always going to be a tough game, and I'm certain no-one from our Club realistically thought we would have a chance of drawing with them never mind beating them. They are without doubt one of the top teams in the Premiership, and quite easily the best team we have ever faced and are ever likely to face. It must have been a tremendous experience for our lads to be up against some World class opponents like that. Their ground was superb, and their supporters were second to none. It was certainly a night I will not forget in a hurry.
The second leg performance from TNS was superb and we could easily have taken the lead and scored at least twice.
For the record books, we were the last Welsh Premier club to play at the old National Stadium (Cardiff Arms Park) in 1996 before it was demolished, and on 28 August 2021 we became the first Welsh Premier club to play at the Millenium Stadium.
Aggregate score 0-7.
[Tony Williams]

1st Leg Home (Wrexham)
Attendance 1,558
v Ruch Chorzow (Pol) D 1-1
2nd Leg Away (Chorzow)
Attendance 6,700
v Ruch Chorzow (Pol) L 0-5
Aggregate 1-6
* as Llansantffraid FC
1st Leg Home (Wrexham)
Attendance 1,432
v Levadia Maardu (Est) D 2-2
2nd Leg Away Tallin
Attendance 1,870
v Levadia Maardu (Est) L 0-4
Aggregate 2-6
1st Leg Away (Lodz)
Attendance 850
Polonia Warszaw (Pol) L 0-4
2nd Leg Home (Wrexham)
Attendance 450
Polonia Warszaw (Pol) L 0-2
Aggregate 0-6
1st Leg Away (Lodz)
Attendance 2,000
Amica Wronki (Pol) L 0-5
2nd Leg Home (Newtown)
Attendance 350
Amica Wronki (Pol) L 2-7
Aggregate 2-12
1st Leg Away (Manchester)
Attendance 34,103
v Manchester City L 0-5
2nd Leg Home (Cardiff)
Attendance 10,123
v Manchester City L 0-2
Aggregate 0-7

Man City v TNS programme cover, 2003.