In their fourth league outing, Flint suffered their fist loss, going down by a single goal to a polished New Saints outfit.
The game plan from the Silkmen was very much to contain and frustrate their illustrious opponents, which they managed to do for long periods, although they themselves were unable to muster a single effort on goal in the entire game, in the only downside to a determined defensive performance.
Possession stats and corner count was heavily in favour of the home side, but even so clear cut chances proved to be few and far between even for them. The Saints attacked with vigour down the right flank in the first half, and Jordan Williams was particularly prominent for them, playing some clever balls in behind the full back or else putting over some dangerous deliveries into the Flint box. The first serious threat on the Flint goal arrived after 22 minutes, when Ryan Woods was forced to punch a corner delivery away from right under his crossbar. With that danger averted, the Flint defence barely had time to draw breath before the ball was returned into the box, and Blaine Hudson met it, but placed his header just wide. A few minutes later, Hudson managed to get in beyond the Silkmen’s backline, but then missed his kick at the vital moment as he was about to size up his opportunity.
Flint were badly missing some sort of outlet, and they could have done with someone to pick the ball up in the middle and drive at the TNS defence, but they concentrated on clearing their lines and pumping long balls up to Jack Kenny and Michael Wilde, neither of whom were getting much change out of the Saints’ centre half pairing of Hudson and Ryan Astles.
The visitors had a let off on 41 minutes, when the tricky Williams hooked a ball over towards the far post. It was surely meant to be a cross, but the flight deceived Woods and ended up striking the upright. That was the last meaningful action of the first half, and Flint’s defensive wall, with Kai Edwards and Ben Nash holding it together well in the middle, could be rightly pleased with the outcome.
However, things unravelled just four minutes into the second period, when Williams delivered another long cross towards the back post from the right side. Woods may be disappointed he didn’t get a hand to it, as the ball eluded him, and Adrian Cieslewicz ghosted it just beyond him to apply the finishing touch to guide the ball over the line.
Their defence having been breached, the Silkmen sought to make more inroads themselves, and did start to produce more forward momentum, but despite their best efforts they were unable to force Paul Harrison into making any saves. Lack of control at vital times saw the ball run away from players, allowing the Saints defenders to nip in and tidy things up. Meanwhile, having gone 1-0 up, the Saints themselves seemed content to knock the ball around the middle third, and protect their advantage.
In the 90th minute, they did manage to fashion a chance, as Declan McManus surged through the middle, and found himself one on one with Woods, but the big Flint keeper did well to smother the shot, and ensure the lead to the hosts remained at just the one goal.
Although their winning run came to an end at Park Hall, Flint can take heart from their disciplined performance against their full time opponents, and this represented a marked improvement upon last seasons two performances against TNS wherein we capitulated and conceded a total of 16 goals across the two meetings. So from then to now, much progress has been made and we are definitely heading in the right direction.