Saints mine nothing against the Pitmen
AN inauspicious end to the pre-season saw The New Saints slump to a 3-0 defeat at Keys Park, the home of Unibond Leaguers Hednesford Town.
With Ken McKenna taking compassionate leave, Gary Brabin took charge of a squad missing defenders Phil Baker and Tommy Holmes, and strikers Ronnie Morgan and John Toner.
Saints still managed to dominate much of the opening half, but had little to show for their efforts and came closest to scoring when Michael Wilde's header whistled wide of the mark from a Chris King cross.
Paul Robinson nearly opened the Pitmen's account, but Gerard Doherty scrambled the ball to safety, with Alfie Carter, back from a trial at Oldham, heading over from Steven Beck, who thensaw his shot saved by keeper Rene Gilmartin after Carter's good work down the byline.
Beck's long range effort failed to test the home stopper and the Pitmen's goal in first-half stoppage time came against the run of play. Doherty called for a Tim Sanders corner but allowed Peter Knox to get his head to the ball first and the close range effort found the back of the net.
Wilde might have done better when one-on-one with Gilmartin on the resumption, but the tables were soon turned as Hednesford broke from the back in a flowing move, smartly finished off by sub Alan Nagington from Danny Blair's pass.
Doherty saved the day from another home attack before Tom Marshall got the third with a spectacular overhead kick which flew into the corner of sub stopper Paul Harrison's net.
Wilde fired over in a late attack but, for the most part, the Saints were well held by the Pitmen's defence, as they seemed to lose interest under the blazing second-half sun.
The only bright spots for TNS were the performances of man-of-the-match Martyn Naylor, who worked tirelessly down the right hand side, and Michael Wilde, who lacked much support in his front running role.