Fresh from our first league win of the season at Cappielow last weekend, Livi make the long trip south to the town of Oswestry, five miles from the border between England and Wales, to take on The New Saints in the second round of the Irn Bru Cup.
The New Saints, or The New Saints of Oswestry Town and Llansantffraid to give them their full name, are no strangers to us after our meeting last season but are a team in transition after much upheaval in the summer.
Let’s look ahead to Sunday’s big match!
So tell us about TNS!
Founded in 1959 as Llansantffraid FC, the club represented the tiny village of Llansantfrraid-ym-Mechain.
After joining the Montgomeryshire Amateur Football League (the fourth tier of the Welsh league system), they won the League title seven times before being elected to the Central Wales League (now Mid-Wales League) in 1990. They were promoted in their first season and continued their meteoric rise two years later with promotion to the top flight.
In 1996, the club won the Welsh Cup and qualified for the European Cup Winner’s Cup for the first time. This new-found exposure prompted local firm Total Network Solutions to plough £250,000 into the club in a sponsorship deal that saw the club’s name changed to match the company’s. Thus, TNS were born!
Unable to host European games at their own Recreation Ground, TNS took their glamour ties on tour to the likes of Newtown or Wrexham, even taking on Manchester City at the Millennium Stadium in 2003.
In the same year, the shareholders of near neighbours Oswestry Town approved a merger with TNS – the move ratified by the Welsh FA on 14 August 2003. The newly-merged club’s first season ended without a trophy but their second yielded a League and Welsh Cup double.
That title success took TNS into the Champions League and, with holders Liverpool set to be denied a chance to defend their title having finished fifth in the Premier League, TNS offered to play a one-off game against Rafa Benitez’s side with their Champions League qualifying berth on the line.
In the end, a compromise was reached with UEFA and Liverpool were entered into the first qualifying round. As it happened, the two sides were drawn together – Liverpool easing through with 3-0 wins in both legs.
Total Network Solutions (the company, not the club!) were taken over by BT in 2006, bringing their unique sponsorship deal to an end and forcing the club to seek a new name.
After a long search – including trying to sell the naming rights on eBay – the club agreed on the name ‘The New Saints’. It was seen as the perfect name to reflect the history of both the merged clubs, Llansantffraid having been known as the Saints and Oswestry Town having had strong connections to Saint Oswald. It also fitted perfectly with the club’s already-adopted acronym, TNS.
History was made in 2010 when, after winning their fourth Welsh title, TNS were drawn against Irish champions Bohemians in the first qualifying round of the Champions League. After losing the first leg 1-0 in Dublin, TNS produced a storming performance to win the second leg 4-0 and advance to the next stage, the first time the club had ever won a European tie. A tie with Belgian giants Anderlecht was the reward but it proved a bridge too far as they crashed out 6-1 on aggregate, before losing 5-2 to CSKA Sofia in the Europa League play-off round.
After finishing runners-up in 2011, TNS regained their titled in 2012 and are now on a run of six consecutive championships as their status (at that time) as Wales’ only full-time club saw them surge ahead of their rivals. The club secured their place in the Guinness Book of Records last season as, thanks to a 2-0 win over Cefn Druids, they surpassed the record set by Ajax in the 1970s with their 27th consecutive win.
It was all change at the end of the season, though, as manager Craig Harrison departed to take the reigns at recently-relegated Hartlepool United. Club legend Scott Ruscoe succeeded Harrison at Park Hall
How have they fared so far this season?
New manager Ruscoe got his reign off to the best possible start, seeing off Gibraltarian side Europa 4-3 on aggregate in the first qualifying round of the Champions League, overturning a 2-1 home defeat in the first leg. Croatian champions Rijeka proved too strong in the next round, though, running out 7-1 aggregate winners.
TNS continued their preparations for the new season by thumping Telford United 14-1 in the Shropshire Senior Cup. That result took them into the final where they were beaten 1-0 by Shawbury United.
Their title defence got off to a terrible start, though, as they suffered a 5-2 thumping at Bangor City. After seeing goals from Brayden Shaw and Gary Taylor-Fletcher cancelled out by Connell Rawlinson and Jamie Mullan, Bangor stormed to victory with further goals from Shaw and Taylor-Fletcher and a late penalty from Cayola.
They have responded well to that early set back with consecutive wins. After seeing off Bala Town 3-0 with a Wes Fletcher double and one from Blaine Hudson, TNS warmed for Sunday’s clash with a narrow 1-0 win at Barry Town United, Fletcher again on the scoresheet.
Have we met before?
As it happens, yes! We met last November at the quarter-final stage of this competition with the Welsh champions making the trip up to West Lothian for a Sunday afternoon game.
The match was played in a torrential rainstorm and, despite a fairly even contest, TNS punished the Lions’ wastefulness in front of goal as they ran out 3-0 winners thanks to goals from Robbie Parry, Steven Saunders and a beauty from Scott Quigley.
Any team news?
Loanee James Penrice is cup-tied after featuring for Partick Thistle U-20s in the last round but he is carrying an ankle knock anyway. Shaun Byrne limped out of last week’s 1-0 win at Morton but it is hoped he will be fit for Sunday’s clash.
After becoming Livi’s joint-record holding appearance maker last weekend, Keaghan Jacobs will hope to make the record his own on Sunday with his 220th appearance for the Lions.
Who is the man in the middle on Sunday?
The referee for tomorrow’s match is Robert Harvey from the Republic of Ireland, who will be assisted by Welshmen Gareth Wyn Jones and Phil Roszkowski. Nick Pratt will act as fourth official.
Though we have not met Mr Harvey before, Mr Pratt was the man in the middle in our 3-0 win over Crusaders at the fourth round stage last year.
How do the bookies see the match going?
League sponsors Ladbrokes see TNS as strong favourites for Sunday’s clashing, making them 4/5 to reach the third round. Livi are available at 14/5 while it is 5/2 for the sides to draw in 90 minutes.
Last season’s meeting saw a 3-0 away win – if you fancy the Lions to repeat that feat, you can back that at 55/1 with Ladbrokes.
What will it cost to get in to the match?
Gate prices for the match are as follows:
- Adults – £10
- Children / concessions (OAPs, full-time students, registered disabled with carer admitted free) – £5
If you are unable to make the trip to Park Hall, the Ferranti Suite will be open for another ‘Irn Bru Cup & Stovies’ event, which proved very popular for our trip to Belfast last season. The match will be shown live and the Suite will be open from 2pm to 6pm.
Tickets cost £5 (including your stovies!) but must be purchased from reception by Friday 1 September.
If you prefer to watch from the comfort of your own home, the match is live on Welsh channel S4C (with a red button option for English language commentary). S4C is available on Sky channel 134 and Virgin channel 166. If you’re out and about, you can listen to the match on TNS Radio, which is available by going to www.tnsfc.co.uk and clicking on Menu -> News -> TNSFC Radio.
Wherever you’re watching or listening to the match, we hope you enjoy it!