TNS, Connah’s Quay march on in Europe; Venables in shock Bala Town switch

There were two big stories to come out of the Welsh Premier League on Thursday evening as whilst the second round ties for the Europa League first qualifying round were dueto get underway, one of the biggest transfers in the history of the WPL was rubber-stamped.

Few would have called Connah’s Quay aggregate win over Stabaek when their draw was initially made and perhaps ever fewer would have called Chris Venables’ summer switch from Aberystwyth to Bala Town, but both transpired last night.

The Nomads edged past Stabaek in Norway to win what was their first ever European tie. Callum Morris’ winner and the side’s collective efforts will now go down in history as the club’s finest ever performance.  Following on from last week’s goalless draw, there was hope that Connah’s Quay might be able to cause a Scandinavian stir in the return leg and a bold performance from Andy Morrison’s men ensured just that – there’s no time for the club to rest however,  a very difficult tie out in Serbia against Vojvodina now awaits them next week.

Llandudno were on the receiving end of a 7-2 aggregate defeat at the hands of IFK Gotenborg after their second-leg in Bangor ended in a credible 2-1 defeat; Danny Hughes scoring to sign off what has just been an incredible 12-month period for the club, given the fact that they were promoted to the top-flight for the first time last summer.

Meanwhile as kick-off approached ahead of Bala Town’s home tie with AIK Solna in Rhyl, it emerged that the Lakesiders had pulled off the biggest signing of the summer after Chris Venables was revealed to have joined the club.

Bala, beaten 2-0 (4-0 aggregate), had their European campaign cut short with an unfavourable draw against AIK, but bolstered by the arrival of Venables their prospects next season look bright indeed.

With Connah’s Quay the only club remaining in the Europa League, they are not the only WPL team still in continental competition as TNS added to their 2-1 first-leg win with a 3-0 victory over Tre Penne in San Marino on Tuesday night. Next up for the Saints is the visit of Cypriots APOEL, who will undoubtedly be a far tougher test than Tre Penne.

Gladly, S4c/Sgorio have already confirmed that they will be providing live coverage of next Tuesday’s first-leg from Park Hall. All I can say is that Dylan Ebenezer must now be racking up some serious time in lieu following his extended stint in France…

“We are hugely delighted to have been able to attract Chris to Maes Tegid. It is one of the most  significant signing’s in the Club’s history and demonstrates our desire and intention to compete at the very highest level in the WPL.

Chris will add substantial stature to the Club both on and off the field and will greatly strengthen the playing squad as we embark ambitiously on another WPL and European campaign,” read Bala Town’s statement which announced Chris Venables’ shock transfer from Aberystwyth.

Venables, 30, had one-year remaining on his contract at Aberystwyth Town and the transfer is believed to be worth a five-figure fee – a considerable amount indeed between two WPL clubs and likely to have been made financially viable for Bala through securing European qualification.

My understanding is that another WPL club were also keen to secure the services of the attacking midfielder, who has impressively won the league’s Golden Boot for the last three seasons, but Bala were able to clinch what is presumably the biggest deal in WPL history.

Having finished runners-up to TNS for two seasons on the bounce, having signed Chris Venables, the question will be asked: can they now go one better?

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