Saints and Robins prepare for round two


Gavin Grosvenor

THE New Saints welcome derby rivals Newtown to Park Hall for a crunch New Year’s Day battle on Friday.

The Saints go into the game still unbeaten after staging a late fightback in the reverse fixture at Paveaways Latham Park on Boxing Day.

Simon Spender netted to ensure TNS a point, after a controversial Chris Marriott goal had helped TNS on the road to recovery in a 2-2 draw.

Despite the Boxing Day draw the Saints still go into 2016 with an overwhelming lead at the top of the Dafabet Welsh Premier, after rivals MBi Llandudno failed to capitalise by losing 2-1 at home to Bangor City on Monday.

TNS go into New Year 10 points clear with one hand already firmly on the Dafabet Welsh Premier title once more.

Coach Craig Harrison said: “To go this long with an unbeaten record and to have won everything last year is a great achievement. 

“We have a nice cushion at the top of the league right now, but we have to make sure we keep that same drive, desire and hunger in our game and not get complacent.

“We’ve got to train well every day and play every game like our lives depended on it. 

“That’s something that I, my staff and the players are all about. We have to make sure that desire and hunger to win keeps bubbling over.”

Newtown manager Chris Hughes must pick up his troops after the dejection of losing a two goal lead and allowing TNS a point on Boxing Day.

“It shows how far we have come as a club and team that we are disappointed to only come away with a point from the game,” said Hughes. “TNS are unbeaten league champions and will win the title again this year.

“I thought we were fantastic and deserved to be ahead at the break.

“We knew TNS would come out and attack us in the second-half but we defended well and still created a few chances of our own.

“We had to make some changes due to injury but I felt Sean Evans did a superb job after dropping back into defence, while Dave Jones was fantastic in goal and I felt with the saves he made that it may have been our day.

“In the end we must be happy with a point against quality opposition.”

The Robins arrive at Park Hall knowing their hosts will be keen to maintain their own home record, while returning to winning ways.

Steff Edwards, who suffered a badly bruised eye on Boxing Day, is a doubt but Chris Hughes welcomes defender Jack Hughes back from injury and striker Mark Griffiths from suspension.

“We can take a lot from Boxing Day but it is another game on New Year’s Day and we know it will be a difficult one,” said Hughes.

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