New Saints keen to avoid old problems

The New Saints FC's Andy Cale says there is "everything to play for" as his side look to progress in UEFA competition for the first time in eleven attempts on what could be a big night for Wales.

The New Saints won last season's Welsh League Cup but qualified for Europe as third-placed finishers in the League of Wales
The New Saints won last season's Welsh League Cup but qualified for Europe as third-placed finishers in the League of Wales ©www.welsh-premier.com

The New Saints FC have been the predominant force in Welsh football since the turn of the century but in European competition they have lagged behind some of their rivals. That may change this evening as they play the home leg of their UEFA Europa League first qualifying round tie against Fram Reykjavík confident that they can overturn a 2-1 deficit from the first encounter in Iceland last week.

History beckons
An aggregate victory would see the Oswestry-based club advance to the second qualifying round of a UEFA tournament for the first time in eleven attempts. Their previous 21 games have brought them two draws and just a single win – two seasons ago they beat FK Ventspils 3-2 at home in the UEFA Champions League first qualifying round first leg only to bow out on away goals when the Latvian side won the return 2-1 – but not the aggregate triumph they crave.

First time
That could change this time with Andy Cale's side eager to mark the first European tie at their Park Hall Ground by adding to Steve Evans' goal from the first game and then denying their opponents chances to score. "Before the game [in Iceland] I said I would have liked to have come away with a draw, or even a narrow win, but we're still in the tie which was our intention going out there," said Cale. "On our own pitch, there's certainly everything to play for."

Llanelli poised
Elsewhere, fellow Welsh League representatives Llanelli AFC will be hoping to complete the job they started in Scotland by progressing at the expense of Motherwell FC. Stuart Jones' headed goal gave the visitors the first shock result of the UEFA Europa League era though new Llanelli manager Andy Legg warns that the tie is far from over. "We're still up against it," he said. "We've got a tough time coming in Llanelli, but with a bit of luck you never know."