WELSH PREMIER FOOTBALL

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Dave Jones looks at the progress made by Welsh Premier sides in European competition.

Welsh Premier League clubs are performing better in Europe than they have ever done.

This season saw our national league teams win five out of 12 European matches - an all-time high success rate of 41.67%.

The New Saints and Newtown did most to ensure the WPL produced the best stats since our clubs began competing in Europe in 1993.

TNS won both legs of their Champions League first qualifying round tie against B36 Torshavn of the Faroe Islands, while the Robins did likewise against Maltese outfit Valletta in the same stage of the Europa League.

It was only the second and third time that a WPL club had won home and away in the same tie of a European competition, Barry Town having been the first to achieve the feat when they knocked FC Shamkir of Azerbaijan out of the Champions League in 2001/02 by scores of 2-0 and 1-0.

TNS only narrowly missed out on further glory when they lost 2-1 on aggregate to Videoton, the Hungarian champions needing an extra time second-leg goal to eliminate the Saints.

Newtown also exited the Europa League with dignity, going down 5-1 over two matches against international-packed FC Copenhagen of Denmark.

Bala Town also did the WPL proud this season as they departed the Europa League in the most heartbreaking fashion.

Having lost 3-1 in Luxembourg against Differdange 03, the Lakesiders were 2-0 up in the return and going through on away goals before the opposition plundered a last-gasp goal beyond the four added minutes to seal a fortunate success.

Bala can still claim to be the only WPL team possessing a 100% home record in Europe, having also beaten FC Levadia of Estonia 1-0 at Rhyl back in 2013/14.

And Airbus also did extremely well in their Europa League clash against powerful NK Lokomotiva of Croatia, losing 3-1 at home before getting a highly commendable 2-2 draw in Zagreb.

There is no doubt that Bala and Airbus have adjusted to the demands of European football very quickly.

The Wingmakers, who have qualified for Europe for the past three seasons, have lost just two of their six matches to date, drawing the other four, while Colin Caton’s men boast an impressive won two, lost two record.

Neither team has received a thrashing of the type WPL clubs used to suffer so regularly in Europe.

In recent times, TNS have carried their dominant WPL form into Europe and such has been their improvement we are now in the rare position of actually being able to expect one of our teams to win an early stage tie.

Had Craig Harrison’s side got past Videoton, which they could well have done, then they would have next locked horns with BATE Borisov of Belarus.

Borisov have reached the Champions League group stage four times in recent seasons, so it is likely they would have ended TNS’s interest in the competition in the third qualifying round.

However, BATE only just edged past League of Ireland champions Dundalk in the last round, so who is to say the Saints - at their very best - might not have caused another shock.

Next would have been the play-off round and then the highly lucrative group stage where all sorts of riches and thrilling escapades await.

Are TNS still some way off that point? Probably, but there is no doubt they are getting closer.

Newtown had an up-and-down Welsh Premier season last time out, but reached the Welsh Cup Final and performed marvels to see off Valletta, their displays reflecting what a fine side Chris Hughes is building at Latham Park.

All four Welsh Premier clubs came out of their latest Euro adventures with something to be proud of this season - and that certainly has not always been the case.

Since 1993/94, our national league hopefuls have played 206 matches across five European competitions, winning just 28, drawing 28 and losing 150.

That is an overall win rate of a mere 13.59%

However, statistics prove, based on 20-match blocks dating back 20 years, that latest results show considerable improvement.

  • 2014/15 to 2015/16: Won 5 Drawn 3 Lost 12. Win rate 25%
  • 2011/12 to 2013/14: Won 2 Drawn 6 Lost 12. Win rate 10%
  • 2010/11 to 2011/12: Won 3 Drawn 3 Lost 14. Win rate 15%
  • 2007/08 to 2010/11: Won 4 Drawn 0 Lost 16. Win rate 20%
  • 2005/06 to 2007/08: Won 3 Drawn 2 Lost 15. Win rate 15%
  • 2003/04 to 2005/06: Won 2 Drawn 1 Lost 17. Win rate 10%
  • 2001/02 to 2003/04: Won 3 Drawn 1 Lost 16. Win rate 15%
  • 1999/2000 to 2001/02: Won 3 Drawn 3 Lost 14. Win rate: 15%
  • 1996/97 to 1998/99: Won 0 Drawn 3 Lost 17. Win rate 0%
  • 1994/95 to 1996/97: Won 2 Drawn 4 Lost 14. Win rate: 10%
  • 1993/94 to 1994/95: Won 1 Drawn 0 Lost 5.

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30 March 2017

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