BY Josh Howe

TNS came so agonizingly close to securing European group football for the first time this season.

Leading 4-2 from a great first leg against Viktoria Plzen, they took an early lead in the Czech Republic, giving them a three-goal lead. That was the closest they’d come to getting to a final qualifying game, but they collapsed.

The host won the game 3-1, sending the Saints into a penalty shootout, during which the BBC reported they missed their first two penalties. That meant another year’s wait for the elusive progression.

Their heroics came in the new Europa Conference League, a competition Bwin Sports explains is designed to give some clubs from smaller nations a chance to compete against Europe’s elite. As well as Anthony Limbrick’s side, Bala Town, Newtown and Connah’s Quay Nomads all appeared. Bala were eliminated by Larne (2-0 aggregate), Newtown also lost to an Irish side (5-0 on aggregate against Dundalk), whilst the Nomads were beaten 6-5 on aggregate by Prishtina.

As for the Saints, they beat Glentoran 301 on aggregate, then hammered Kauno Žalgiris 10-1. That set up their Czech tie and ultimate agony. They’ll have to wait another year to emulate some of the Welsh Premier League’s finest European moments, so whilst that time passes, we’ve assembled three memorable games that brought pride to the WPL and to Welsh football.

SK Liepajas Metalurgs 1-2 Prestatyn Town (2013/14)

Prestatyn Town doesn’t have a European heritage, and few gave them hope in their first-ever tie in the Europa League. They were 2-1 down from the first tie and travelled to Latvia with hope, but little more.

All seemed lost when the hosts took a 1-0 lead, but Ross Stephens gave them a lifeline. Moments later, player-manager Neil Gibson levelled the tie, taking it to penalties. From 12-yards, they triumphed, winning 4-3, earning them a game against Croatia’s Rijeka, which they lost 8-0.

Llanelli 2-1 Dinamo Tbilisi (2011/12)

Tbilisi are one of Europe’s big clubs, having won the old Cup Winner’s Cup back in 1981. Nobody gave Llanelli a hope of beating them in 2012, but they gave it a real go.

Their 2-1 win at Parc-y-Scarlets raised eyebrows around the European game; Jordon Follows bagging a double in the absence of leading scorer Rhys Griffiths. Taking the lead to Georgia was an achievement, but the heroics ended there; they were beaten 5-0 and eliminated.

Barry Town 3-1 Porto (2001/02)

Barry were already out of this tie when Porto came to Wales; they’d lost 8-0 in the first leg and were effectively already out.

They played with no fear on the return leg and recorded one of the most remarkable scores any Welsh team has before or since.

Porto were without Deco and a host of other stars, but they were still well beaten. Lee Phillips, Mike Flynn and Gary Lloyd all bagged for the Welsh side in a memorable evening. If you need a further barometer of the size of this achievement, within two years, Porto won the Champions League.