The New Saints 3

Bangor City 0

The New Saints took a huge step towards clinching the Welsh Premier League title by beating their closest challengers at Park Hall.

And although the final scoreline may be a little flattering as Bangor were worthy opponents, it was another top-quality, assured performance from the reigning champions.

It always promised to be a tight encounter, with table-topping Saints tackling the side second in the table – and with Alex Darlington keen to impress against his former paymasters.

TNS were in control for long periods, knocking the ball about with confidence and restricting Bangor to few attacking moves.

That's not to say City didn't make the most of their opportunities, though – they fashioned the best chance of the opening exchanges when a neat move gave Luke Wall a sight of goal, but his shot from inside the box was straight at a grateful Paul Harrison.

For all Saints' possession, they struggled to create clear-cut openings, and Bangor were content to sit back and watch the home side ping the ball about.

After half-an-hour Saints sniffed the breakthrough as an intricate passing move opened up the City defence, but Dean Ebbe was finally crowded out.

As the half drew to a close, and Saints saw their dominance coming to nothing, tempers became frayed as TNS saw penalty appeals for a couple of challenges waved away, while at the other end Tom Holland was penalised for a challenge – and also found himself booked.

It was an intriguing encounter, Saints dominating for long periods but Bangor always looking capable of springing forward and punishing the home side.

Whatever Scott Ruscoe told his players at half-time, it worked – his side came out with a new purpose. Aeron Edwards had a fierce shot turned away by keeper Matthew Hall, and Blaine Hudson headed over from a corner when his angry reaction showed he thought he should have done better.

Nine minutes into the half, the first goal arrived. City made a terrible hash of trying to clear a cross and the ball fell perfectly for Edwards, who bulleted his shot into the top corner.

It was a goal that former Saints striker Scott Quigley, watching from the stand, would have been proud to claim as his own.

A second almost came soon after, as Connell Rawlinson saw his header pushed over the bar by Hall.

It did arrive after 64 minutes – and gave Saints much-needed breathing space – as Chris Marriott broke down the left, avoiding a fierce challenge the referee ignored, before crossing low across the box for Edwards to apply the finishing touch.

Bangor were deflated by the double strike – but backed by their noisy band of supporters, they regrouped and slowly began mounting more of an attacking challenge.

And when Dean Rittenberg broke into the box and look odds-on to test Harrison, Hudson threw himself into the path of the ball to snuff out the opportunity.

Late on Rittenberg pulled a shot wide of the target for Bangor – and then, in added time, came the moment of the night.

Ryan Brobbel was not quite tall enough to get on the end of a cross, but retrieved the ball near the touchline, cut inside and then curled a magnificent shot into the top corner.

It was a fitting end to a powerful performance – and that league title looks ever closer.