Kick off:19:30 Friday, 17 Aug 2007
Fixture Type: Welsh Premier League
Referee: Huw Jones
RICKY Evans' strike 11 minutes from time gave Druids a flying start to the season by beating defending champions The New Saints at Plaskynaston Lane. The midfielder struck superbly from 25 yards to score the only goal of the game in his first league appearance for The Ancients, giving his side a deserved victory.
His strike might have been his second of the game, but he missed a first half penalty. Druids lined up against with a 4-5-1 formation with joint player-managers Lee Jones and Waynne Phillips deciding that the best game plan was to make it hard for their side to break down.
The plan worked superbly as Carl Edwards in the home goal was barely troubled by the visitors. Although the match was an absorbing contest in front of a crowd of 402, it was a game of few chances as both defences looked to remain resolute. Druids did have a half chance in the second minute when a right wing corner fell to Stuart Vernon, but his shot was easily blocked by the Saints' defence.
Then, in the 16th minute, the hosts were presented a golden chance to score the first goal of the season. A right wing cross from Phillips found Jones in the TNS box. His marker, Rob Williams, appeared to push the Druids co-boss and the referee made no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
However, although Evans sent goalkeeper Gerard Doherty the wrong way from the resultant penalty, he also put the ball on the wrong side of the post. The Saints came close to making Druids pay for the miss in the 34th minute. Steven Beck's dangerous cross from the right was narrowly headed over his own bar by Phillips.
A minute later Jones came close to opening the scoring when his shot from the left edge of the penalty area beat Doherty but flashed across the face of goal. Druids started brightly after the break with left winger Kevin Holsgrove getting more and more involved. His cross in the 51st minute was flicked on by Jones but the effort was easily gathered by Doherty.
Then, four minutes later, the winger was released down the left and it took Williams' challenge to stop him in his tracks. He then won a free kick by the left corner in the 57th minute which was headed behind for a corner on the right. The resultant flag kick was met by Tim Edwards, who had come forward for the set pieces, but could only weakly head towards goal, causing Doherty no problems.
Jones and Holsgrove linked up well in the 62nd minute when the Druids co-boss released the 19-year-old down the left. He, in turn, was able to get past his man and played an accurate ball back to his manager only to see the balls bounce evade the striker who was in a great position.
TNS has offered little in front of the Druids goal. Scott Ruscoe's 64th minute effort went high and wide after he had controlled the ball on his chest to set himself up. Six minutes later Druids had a let off when Carl Edwards fumbled the ball after calling for it. He was able to recover quickly and block the follow-up shot with his legs.
Then, with the game close to entering the final ten minutes, Evans made amends for his penalty miss. Jones won the ball on the edge of the box, but was held up by his marker with the ball falling to Holsgrove. The winger, with his back to goal, saw the midfielder in space and laid off the ball to him, allowing him to control and then fire home left-footed beating Doherty's dive.
The defending champions tried to break down the resolute Druids defence in stoppage time. Firstly, debutant substitute Luke Holden sent in a dangerous free kick from the left, causing trouble in the box, but the home defence stood firm and cleared the danger.
And then, in the final action of the match, The Saints won a corner on the left, which saw Doherty join the attack. The 'keeper saw the ball fall to him on the edge of the box but, as his effort went high over the bar, the referee blew for an infringement on a Druids defender in the penalty area. The resultant free kick saw the match come to an end and Druids gain a surprise, but deserved, victory.