Connah’s Quay Nomads take on The New Saints on Saturday afternoon. One of the challengers hosting the champions, it is a huge game in the JDWPL title race, and we caught up with TNS manager Scott Ruscoe to gather his thoughts ahead of the game.
“I think if you look at our record over the last two months we’re in a good place, we feel like we’ve played some really positive football, created a lot of good chances and not let many in at the other end, so when you’re in a good run like this and momentum is with you, you don’t get too apprehensive about going into games like this.
“What we’ve done previously, the work we’ve done in training, the planning, the preparation, its just down to the players then and as long as you can look at the players and know that they’re ready then you can go into the game on the weekend and enjoy it as best you can.
“They’ve got home advantage so they’ll be looking at it thinking they need to get a win this weekend at their ground. If we get a draw and win our game in hand we go top, so are they thinking they need to come out and really give this a go? I don’t know, but it was a tight game earlier on in the season and I expect this one to be no different.
“It is a top-of-the-table clash and whoever wins on Saturday has certainly got the edge, I think.”
The mid-Phase-One blip suffered by The New Saints seems like a very distant memory at the moment, as the suffered a run of results uncharacteristic for them where they lost to Aberystwyth and Caernarfon in the league and were knocked out by Cambrian and Clydach in the Nathaniel MG Cup as well.
Ruscoe said at the time that he wasn’t too concerned with his side, as there were plenty of positives to take from a difficult period, and again he discussed the difficult period for the champions and how they got through it.
“We can see in training the confidence that this team has at the moment. We’ve had discussions as a team throughout the season previously, of course, but even at that time earlier in the year when we lost two games in a row against Aberystwyth ad Caernarfon, we weren’t playing badly at all – we just weren’t scoring and the success of Barry and Connah’s Quay perhaps amplified that.
“At the start of the season we had a good European campaign, we were fit, we were sharp, I just think a couple of injuries maybe didn’t help us at that time, but we’ve got a big squad, we get on with it, and like I said at the time, we’ll be there at the end of the season.
“Medals, championships, they’re not given out in November, and the best team in the league will come out on top. Let’s make sure it’s us that’s there at the end of the season.”
Over the last few weeks, the goals have been coming from everywhere for the champions as they’ve had high-scoring performances from midfielders and forwards alike in recent times as well as strong performances at the back for the champions.
Ruscoe heaped praise on his squad, and spoke of how exciting it is for him as a coach to see so many players taking the initiative and leading this team through such a strong run of form.
“We’re peaking at the right time, definitely, and if you look at where the goals are coming from its across the board at the minute and as a manager that is fantastic to see – look at Jamie Mullan, Ryan Brobbel, Aeron Edwards, they have 30 goals between them.
“Jamie and Simon Spender are up there in the assist ranks again, and you look at other people who have excelled too. Danny Redmond has played in five different positions for me this year and done excellently, Chris Marriott has been playing centre-back. People might think that someone 5ft 7 couldn’t do that, but I believe him and I trust him and he’s repaying that.
“The forwards have shared their time around a lot, Greg Draper has been brilliant for us yet again, but he’s had to be patient, having a spell in the team but also having to be patient on the bench as well. All three forwards have had their opportunities this year and scored vital goals for us. Performances have been strong across the board, and that’s what’s been most exciting for me.”
And what about one of the challengers to TNS’ crown? The Nomads have been very strong this season and led the standings for large chunks of the term.
They have an opportunity to extend that lead this weekend if they are able to bag a win over the defending champions, and Ruscoe gave a glowing appraisal of Andy Morrison’s side.
“They’re an excellent side, they know their jobs, their roles and responsibilities. There is great detail in their preparation, you can see that from their set plays and they’re very well-drilled.
“Yes, they’re a physical side but there are a lot of physical sides out there, and beyond all else they have a real will to win with very good players who can change a game in an instant.
“Michael Bakare and Rob Hughes, if they get the ball around 25 yards out, they make defences work, they trouble goalkeepers, they take chances, and you’ve also got experience in Mike Wilde up front who does brilliant for them. At the back they’re very solid, although they’ve probably conceded a lot more than they’d have liked to this year.
“You look through the whole squad, there’s experience there, there’s strength, and a will to win, and that comes from the staff – Andy Morrison, Craig Harrison, Jay Catton – they’ve got people there who are winners and I’m not surprised how well they’re doing, and hats off to them as they’ve had a very good season.”
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