THE New Saints look to shake off their dismal start to their season when they launch a new era at Oswestry’s Park Hall stadium today.
The Welsh Premier champions, who host Powys rivals Caersws in their new surrounds this afternoon, have been rocked by successive defeats including last Sunday’s 5-1 drubbing at Aberystwyth Town.
It has left them in the unaccustomed position of lying at the foot of the table, and manager Ken McKenna admits his side need to quickly put points on the board.
At least the Saints now know they can play their home games at their new Park Hall ground after getting the go-ahead from the FA of Wales.
The switch sees TNS sever their links after 14 years of playing at Llansantffraid, and they become the first club in the top tier of Welsh football to play on an artificial surface.
“I still believe we’ve got a better squad than last year, in fact the best squad in the league,” said McKenna.
“The players need to go out and relax and just forget about trying to win the title for a fourth year.
“Losing the first two games will make it hard for us, but there are still 32 games left.”
Defender Tommy Holmes is again an injury doubt while front men John Toner and Ronnie Morgan are also missing.
Meanwhile, Caersws are anticipating a backlash as they look to pick up their first points of the season at the new home of the defending champions.
”I don’t know how TNS are going to react – they’re not used to losing and it could be a rough ride for us,” said Bluebirds manager Mike Barton.
”But we’ll go there and have a go. We need to close them down, work hard and be disciplined.”
Barton is making moves to bolster his squad with four prospective new signings being targeted.
Midfielder Jack Bermingham and winger Justin Wickham are again ruled out through injury.
Meanwhile, keeper Chris Mullock gets his chance to impress as Newi Cefn Druids continue their testing start to the season with a trip to in-form full-timers Llanelli today.
The Welsh under-18 takes over between the posts with Carl Edwards unavailable, and it’s the perfect opportunity for the youngster to stake his claim.
”I decided to start the season with Carl,” said joint manager Wayne Phillips. “It was a close call, but now Chris has got his chance after just two games.”
The Druids make the trip to Stebonheath Park on the back of two mixed home results, opening the season with a fine 1-0 verdict over The New Saints before going down 2-0 to Welshpool Town last Friday.
”We know it’s going to be tough at Llanelli, but if we can show the same enthusiasm and determination that we did against TNS then we’ll give ourselves a chance,” Phillips added.
Striker Mike Heverin could be included on his return from America, but Darren Williams and Paul Mazzarella are again missing.