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TNS crowned champions after thrilling draw

Match report by Sam Wood. Lead image: Brian Jones

THE New Saints lifted a record-breaking 14th JD Cymru Premier title following a thrilling 3-3 draw against Penybont on Saturday (Mar 12).

Trailing 2-0 at the break, it looked for a while that the celebrations would have to wait, but Anthony Limbrick’s side completed a superb second-half comeback to get things back on track.

Rhys Griffiths’ side snatched a late equaliser, but it could do nothing to dampen the mood around the ground, as The Saints did enough to ensure the trophy was lifted following the final whistle.

It was The New Saints who had the first chance of the match with eight minutes on the clock.

After receiving the ball just outside the penalty area, Leo Smith tried his luck, but visiting goalkeeper, Ashley Morris, was equal to his effort.

Anthony Limbrick’s side continued to fashion chances though, and Declan McManus watched an effort go over in the 18th minute after spinning with the ball inside the penalty area.

Down the other end, a snapshot on the edge of the box from Bont’s Kai Whitmore went high of Paul Harrison’s crossbar in the 27th minute.

That was the start of a frantic spell in the match, with Adrian Cieslewicz sending a header onto the roof of the net moments later.

Then, with 31 minutes played, the game’s first goal arrived, and it was the visitors who scored it.

After some good work to beat the offside trap, Nathan Wood went 1v1 with Paul Harrison, before smashing a well-timed effort into the top corner of the net.

Just four minutes later, the visitors thought they’d doubled their advantage, but Sam Snaith’s goal was ruled out for an offside in the build-up.

But with just a minute to go before the half-time whistle, disaster struck for The Saints, when Penybont scored again from close-range.

Once more, Snaith was the man involved, heading past Harrison from the edge of the six-yard box, and on that occasion, the offside flag didn’t come to the rescue.

Unhappy with what he’d seen in the opening 45, Anthony Limbrick turned to his bench at the break, introducing Ash Baker and Ben Clark.

The changes proved to be inspired too, as Clark got his side back into the match with a 64th-minute goal.

There was a touch of fortune to his finish, as it snuck through the legs of the helpless Ashley Morris, but it proved to be a turning point in the game.

It was all TNS from that point onwards, and Chris Marriott forced the goalkeeper into action again in the 71st minute with a powerful free-kick.

Five minutes later though, more good fortune went the way of Limbrick’s team, when the scores were leveled thanks to an own goal.

Despite his best efforts to prevent the ball from crossing the line, Lewis Harling was the man who got the unfortunate touch, diverting past his own goalkeeper to inadvertently get The Saints’ title party back on track.

And in the 81st minute, the other substitute, Ash Baker, got in on the act, as he completed a superb turnaround with a powerful header following a corner.

Things were looking good for Limbrick’s team as full-time approached, but in the 89th minute, Liam Walsh scored a late equaliser to make the final few minutes nervy for Saints supporters.

The side in green and white saw out stoppage time professionally though, and a thrilling match ended in a 3-3 draw, which was enough to see the JD Cymru Premier trophy return to Park Hall for the first time since 2019.