Comedy of errors ends all square
NEATH'S bid to break the domination of the Welsh Premier's 'big three' got the perfect start as they raced into a two-goal lead at Park Hall.
But, after defeating Llanelli and Rhyl in their last two games, they were forced to settle for a point against The New Saints and, in the end, were fortunate to escape defeat.
Only lack of a cutting edge prevented the Saints from turning their domination into goals after they recovered from the shock of going two-down inside the first 16 minutes.
All the goal action was squeezed into the first half hour in a comedy of errors not helped by a strong and gusty wind.
Paul Harrison failed to come off his line to deal with Phil Baker's back pass and Richard Ingram made the most of his opportunity to open the scoring.
After another eight minutes, a long ball over the top from defender Carlos Castan caught the Saints' defence flat-footed and Craig Steins shrugged-off a despairing last-ditch tackle from Baker to double the lead.
Shaken into action, TNS were quickly back on level terms when Castan's back-pass eluded his keeper Anthony Williams and allowed Matthew Berkeley clear sight of an empty net to score from a narrow angle.
Then the Saints turned defence into attack after Sean Cronin had headed over from a corner, when Baker's long ball upfield found Jamie Wood, who lobbed Williams from the edge of the box.
The hosts went on to dominate the game, with Berkeley guilty of two misses, while seeing a point-blank effort saved.
And when Steve Evans and Craig Jones did get the ball in the net, their efforts were ruled out for a foul and offside respectively.
TNS were rarely troubled at the back, although Andy Hill had a strong penalty shout after being brought down in the box and only Baker's late intervention prevented sub Keiran Howard from snatching an undeserved winner for the Eagles.