What a seven days for Welsh football… Fantastic success for TNS and Newtown, late heartbreak for Bala Town and a gutsy performance from Airbus out in Croatia. It’s sad to see two of the four European sides go out at the first hurdle but the fact is that the four clubs achieved a 62% win-rate amongst them and the signs from all four ties are extremely encouraging.
There’s little time to rest in these qualifying campaigns and TNS return to action on Tuesday night while Newtown are rewarded with their superb victories against Valletta with a tie away to FC Copenhagen on Thursday!
First up though TNS, who carried their domestic form onto the European stage with a very encouraging 6-2 first qualifying round victory over Faroese champions B36. Michael Wilde’s hat-trick steered the Saints into a second qualifying round tie against Videoton, but the Saints will need to ramp up their performance against the Hungarians where they will be clear underdogs. Here are five reasons why TNS can cause a stir against Videoton!
TNS exited the Champions League at this stage last year after a 3-0 aggregate defeat to Slovan Bratislava. A slender 1-0 first leg defeat in the Slovakian capital saw TNS return home with the tie very much achievable but what cost the Saints was their lack of firepower. Fast forward 12 months and TNS’s form paints a very different picture with Wilde amongst the goals netting four across both legs including a hat-trick in the return leg at Park Hall. With Wilde looking sharp and confident, TNS should pose more threat in front of goal this summer.
Although TNS have had to compete from the first qualifying round this summer, in avoiding elimination against B36 they have been able to benefit from two thorough workouts. Both ties against B36 will have done more the squad in terms of fitness and match sharpness than any of the fixtures in the club’s taylor-made pre-European schedule. Craig Harrison will have a fitter squad at his disposal than this time last summer.
Home leg first
There is no denying that TNS will be the underdogs against Videoton but playing the first-leg at home could prove to be a bonus. Playing their first game in Oswestry will allow the side to focus solely on the first-leg and not have to worry about logistics and going into the unknown. At Park Hall, TNS will be in a familiar environment where they can hopefully find a platform and gain a foothold into the tie to put them in good stead for the away leg.
Super Cup defeat
The Hungarian league, like the WPL, suffers from playing the early stages of their European campaign out of season. Videoton have been in competitive and friendly action however and competed in the Hungarian Super Cup last weekend and then played a midweek friendly on Wednesday. Results so far have not been kind to ‘Vidi’, as they are known, and they were on the receiving end of a 3-0 defeat in the Super Cup to Ferencvarosi. They didn’t fare much better in their following fixture when they were held to a goalless draw. Clearly it is difficult to read too much into these results but it does at least show the Videoton are perhaps showing a little bit of ring rust which will be something TNS would look to exploit.
It’s struck me that all the Welsh clubs competing in Europe this summer have been reluctant to reinforce their squads too heavily and TNS are no exception to that trend. With the exception of Sam Finley, who’s returned to the fold after completing a loan spell at Wrexham, the squad remains the same as it was on the final day of last season. This group of players are close-knit, in a settled changing room and are aware of each other’s strengths and limitations. Recipe for success?
It’s been confirmed that Sgorio will be showing live TV coverage of the first-leg on S4C with the programming starting at 6:45 (K.O. 7pm). TNS have also confirmed ticketing arrangements on their site.