Sloppy Saints made to sweat
THE New Saints continued their relentless push towards a third consecutive title but they made heavy weather of beating NEWI Cefn Druids.
Almost total domination of the first-half resulted in only a 2-1 interval lead and they were made to work hard to contain the Ancients before Michael Wilde's injury-time third goal settled their nerves.
Facing a hectic schedule of eight games in 21 days, manager Ken McKenna rested several first-choice players and was also without the services of the injured Tommy Holmes.
But his strike pairing of Carl Lamb and Oscar Gonzalez gave Saints the perfect start. Lamb had the ball in the net on six minutes, only to be ruled offside, but there was no problem with the opener from Gonzalez moments later as the Spaniard crashed home a loose ball via the crossbar after the visitors failed to clear their lines from a corner.
Lamb twice went close to increasing the lead, before Druids' keeper Carl Edwards pulled off the first of several key saves, denying Greg Stones and then diving at full stretch to turn away from Gonzalez.
But a howler from Michael Jackson gave Druids a foothold they didn't deserve when he dallied on the ball before under-hitting a backpass to Gerard Doherty which was steered into an empty net by Mike Heverin.
Despite the setback, Saints should have re-established a comfort zone by the break, with Chris King, Lamb and Gonzalez all shooting wide and Edwards saving from King.
An early goal after the break would have settled the TNS nerves, but Druids defended resolutely to restrict the number of chances, without ever testing Doherty at the other end. Toner went close at the near post from Courtney's cross, Edwards saved superbly from Stones on two occasions and Gonzalez was just wide with another effort.
The points were always in the balance with some uncharacteristically sloppy defending from the Saints until Scott Ruscoe's shot in added time was parried by Edwards and fellow sub Michael Wilde made sure on the goal line.