A win, draw and two defeats should be considered a positive return from the Welsh Premier League’s representatives in European football this week – particularly when considering the challenging ties that awaited Bala, Llandudno and Connah’s Quay in the Europa League.
TNS got the WPL’s European class of 2016 underway with a home win over Tre Penne. Few expected the San Marino side to quickly find their way back into the game after Scott Quigley’s opener but Jamie Mullan made sure the Saints were back in the driving seat before half-time.
TNS certainly seemed to be the dominant side in their 2-1 win and despite the away goal, Craig Harrison spoke confidently about his side’s chances in the return leg, telling the club’s official website, “If we play like we did in the first leg, I am I am sure we will progress next week. I think they will come out a bit more and will be a bit more open which will allow us space in behind.”
Of the four Welsh clubs playing this week, TNS were the only side to be favourites going into their tie and although their lead is more slender than they will have wanted, they will be fully expected to reach the second qualifying round.
Expectations were somewhat lower for Bala Town and Llandudno out in Sweden. Llandudno, who this time last year where celebrating promotion for the first time to the WPL, struggled against IFK Goteborg and were beaten 5-0. Next week’s home-leg (in Bangor) will live long in the memory for all associated with Llandudno but the tie is, with respect, effectively over.
The same cannot be said of Bala Town however. They faced an equally difficult challenge against AIK and a goal in either half leaves the Lakesiders trailing by 2-0. AIK have a foot firmly into the next round but should Bala just manage to get a goal next week, could Colin Caton lead his side into one of the most remarkable European scalps of all time? Andrew Howard, the FAW’s Head of Competitions; highlighted just what a respectable result Bala’s defeat was.
Of all the second-leg ties next week, Connah’s Quay’s is perhaps the biggest. On their debut night in European competition, they more than held their own in a goalless draw against Stabaek and will travel to Norway in confidence of being able to stage an upset. Speaking post-match Andy Morrison feels his side are quite capable of causing Stabaek problems and an away goal next week would put his side in pole-position. The Nomads’ task is far from done but they shouldn’t be written off.
HOW WE DID
TNS 2-1 Tre Prenne; AIK 2-0 Bala Town; IFK 5-0 Llandudno; Connah’s Quay 0-0 Stabaek.
Cover image courtesy of NCM Media/Gap Connah’s Quay