Cup win so sweet for the Saints
THIS was about as sweet as it gets for The New Saints as they clinched the FAW Premier Cup and a £100,000 winner's cheque with a 1-0 win at Newport County's Spytty Park.
The club had protested at being forced to make the long trip south without even the toss of a coin, but the management team and players responded in the best possible way with a well-deserved victory over their Conference South opponents.
There was an early scare when former Port Talbot striker Craig Hughes fluffed a golden opportunity in the six-yard box after a mix-up between Tommy Holmes and Michael Jackson, but it was a rare defensive lapse on a night when the defence played magnificently.
And five minutes later TNS were in the lead after a sweeping move saw Scott Ruscoe's diagonal ball from the right swept past keeper Mark Ovendale from 14 yards by Steven Beck.
Saints generally dominated possession and certainly played the more flowing football, but the Exiles had a couple of first-half chances. Beck became a hero at the other end of the pitch when clearing a Dean Holdsworth header off the line before keeper Gerard Doherty got down well to block a Jason Bowen effort.
TNS responded with Beck drilling a shot narrowly wide of a post while John Leah's thumping 30-yard piledriver was brilliant tipped away to safety by Ovendale.
Chances were harder to come by after the break with Michael Wilde slicing wide on 55 minutes when a square ball to Jamie Wood looked the better option. John Toner clipped the bar with a header and Wilde's 12-yard chip was turned over the bar by a back-pedalling Ovendale.
TNS were also denied a stonewall penalty when Toner was clearly elbowed in the box.
But the more the game went on the more Saints looked the likelier winners and they lifted the wooden ball as a just reward for a controlled and thoroughly professional performance in which Beck and defender Duane Courtney deserve special mention.
"I felt we dominated the game from start to finish but I'm still baffled as to why we had to play the final here," said delighted manager Ken McKenna.
"It was a massive win for the club as we've now got a full set of trophies."