DEFENSIVE BLUNDERS COST SAINTS DEAR
Tommy Holmes looks on anxiously as
Dean Williams saves under pressure from Rhyl's Michael Jackson [Photo ©Richard Stanton]
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SAINTS' perfect start to the season came to an abrupt end at Treflan, as three crucial defensive blunders gift-wrapped a victory for third-placed Rhyl.
Missing five first team regulars through illness or injury, Saints were able to name Steve Evans in the centre of defence for the first time since mid-September.
But it turned out to be a mixed blessing, as the normally reliable central defender contributed to the defensive howlers.
Even allowing for the absentees, TNS failed to play to their usual strengths or to find any rhythm.
In a first-half of few decent chances, the defensive horror show started in the 23rd minute. Chris Taylor completely misjudged a routine header on the edge of his 18-yard box from a long clearance by Rhyl keeper Paul Smith, and Andy Moran nipped in for a well taken goal.
Dave Bridgwater chipped a 30-yard free kick over the bar and Mike Wilde just failed to make contact with a dangerous cross from Tommy Holmes.
But TNS fought back level on 42 minutes. Bridgwater's free kick fell to Jamie Wood in the box and his deflected shot broke to Chris Taylor, who atoned for his previous error by forcing the ball in at the post.
Saints should have gone ahead just before the break, but Steven Beck hammered his shot against Smith's legs from a good position, after latching on to Chris King's pass.
In the second period, Rhyl were denied when Stuart Walters could only head straight at Williams from point blank range and Paul Smith came to his side's rescue with full stretch saves from Bridgwater and Wood.
But he was beaten just after the hour, when Michael Wilde laid off a long clearance for Steven Beck to coolly pick his spot and smash a stunning shot into the net from 18 yards.
TNS might have thought they had done enough to claim the points, but two more defensive gaffes turned the tables in Rhyl's favour.
Under no pressure, Steve Evans headed into his own goal from a Jamie Brewerton free kick.
Then, with one minute of normal time remaining, Evans missed his header on the edge of the box from Limbert's floated free kick, and Moran gleefully accepted the chance from six yards.
TNS missed the influence of Davies and Ruscoe in midfield as they struggled to string together many passes.
And with Limbert, Moran and Powell always lively upfront, Rhyl's smash and grab raid brought a dramatic end to Saints' 100% dream start.