THE New Saints will be looking to shrug off last weekend’s shock defeat as they bid to seal a third successive Welsh Premier crown at Powys rivals Welshpool tonight.
The leaders were stunned 3-1 at home to Caernarfon on Saturday – only their third league reverse of the season – meaning they still require just two points from their remaining three outings to retain the title.
Manager Ken McKenna is looking for a swift riposte, and is certain to recall the likes of John Toner and Scott Ruscoe who were rested on Saturday.
“Last Saturday was disappointing, but we’ll go again,” he said. “Caernarfon looked fresher than us, had more desire and deserved their success, while too many of our players were not at the races.
“If you don’t work hard then you’re not going to get anything. But I’m not going to be too critical of the lads, who have had a long, hard season going back to June.”
He added: “We’ve got another big battle against Welshpool tonight, but strangely we’re now in a better position than we were before last Saturday with us needing two points to make absolutely sure, instead of four.”
Welshpool will be looking to avenge their six-goal hammering at Saints on Boxing Day as they bid to keep alive their hopes of European qualification.
“Having been panned 6-0 earlier in the season, nobody expects us get anything tonight,” said manager Tommi Morgan.
“With TNS having lost last Saturday, and looking to win the title tonight, it’s going to be a big challenge for us but one we’re looking forward to.”
Ross Jefferies, a goalscorer against his old club Newi Cefn Druids in last Friday’s 3-1 win, is doubtful with a hamstring strain, while left-back Paul Dowridge is unavailable.
Morgan was happy with his side’s display against the Druids, in which they halted a two-match losing sequence.
“Not many teams go there and score three goals,” he said.
Meanwhile, Porthmadog – upbeat after three straight wins – hope to bolster their Premier Cup entry bid by adding tonight’s visitors Haverfordwest County to their list of conquests, writes Keith Evans.
But manager Osian Roberts has several injury checks to make before the Traeth team’s line-up can be finalised.
While striker Carl Owen is again a definite non-starter, there are concerns are over Mike Foster, Clayton Blackmore and Gareth Caughter.
Left wing-back Foster, missing from Saturday’s 3-2 winning side at Cwmbran Town, has a pulled hamstring, which is also playmaker Clayton Blackmore’s problem, while winger Caughter has a damaged ankle.
Roberts said: “For a good part of the season we were aware that we were short of goals but suddenly we have clicked, got six in two games last week and want to continue in that way.
“Defensively we need to keep things tight, as usual, in what should be an attractive game between two teams who have Premier Cup ambitions and have plenty to play for.”