In buoyant mood after their 4-1 aggregate win over Republic of Ireland's Bohemian FC in the UEFA Champions League second qualifying round, The New Saints FC are determined to produce a similarly high-octane display against RSC Anderlecht on Tuesday
Trailing Bohemians 1-0 ahead of last week's second leg in Oswestry, TNS struck three times in the first 20 minutes through Craig Jones, Matthew Williams and Chris Sharp. Williams added another late on to set up third qualifying round meetings with Anderlecht over the next two weeks, some reward for being the first Welsh club to win a UEFA Champions League tie since Barry Town FC knocked out Azerbaijan's FK Shamkir in 2001/02.
In fact, TNS themselves have never before made it through a round of Europe, having had 11 previous attempts since their 1996/97 debut. However, goalkeeper Paul Harrison believes they can give Anderlecht a severe test when the Belgian side visit Wrexham FC's Racecourse Ground for the first leg. "If we can keep another clean sheet, that'd set us up well to go to Belgium," Harrison said, while captain Steve Evans added: "We're realistic, but if we can defend like we did [against Bohemians] then who knows?"
After all, Anderlecht are not the first famous name taken on in Europe by TNS. "
In the past we've played the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City, so we've got experience of playing big clubs," said Evans. "We're the underdogs and we've got nothing to lose so we'll go out there and give it our best shot."
They certainly did that in their win against Bohemians. "In the first leg we gave them too much respect, so the plan was to press them higher up the pitch so they didn't have so much of the ball and it worked," continued former West Bromwich Albion FC, Crewe Alexandra FC and Wrexham defender Evans. "Credit to the lads, especially our keeper who made two world-class saves to keep us in the tie."
That keeper, former Liverpool trainee Harrison, knows he will need another rousing performance against the Belgian champions and strikers like brilliant teenager Romelu Lukaku. "
It's going to be very difficult and they're obviously a different level to what we've come up against so far, but anything's possible after the way we played [against Bohemians]," Harrison said. "I think we'll go out there with intensity from the start, but I don't think we'll want to give too much away either because the level of quality will be a real step up from [last week's] tie."
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