A topsy turvy game at Park Hall, saw The New Saints eventually run out comfortable winners, having seen off a mini Flint revival midway through the second half.
TNS had dominated matters in the first half, and established a comfortable 2-0 lead by the break. Flint suffered an early setback by conceding a goal after just four minutes. Brandon Diau made a rash challenge just outside the box in a central position, and home skipper Chris Marriott curled the resulting free kick over the wall into the net.
Not for the first time this season, Flint’s midfield were guilty of allowing the opposition far too much time and space on the ball, and when you’re up against this calibre of opposition, it inevitably means you will be punished. Dawid Szczepaniak was being kept busy in the Flint goal, as he first saved a shot from over on the right flank, before keeping out a Jordan Williams strike from 25 yards. On 20 minutes, Adam Wilson struck the post with a stinging shot as Saints continued to press.
Flint’s best outlet was the industrious Ben Hughes, who was trying his best to make things happen for his team, every time he had an opportunity to get on the ball.
The left footed Wilson was playing down the right wing for Saints, and in the 38th minute he received possession following a wayward Flint pass in the middle of the park. But instead of being ushered down the wing, he was given space to cut inside, before hitting a shot that took a massive deflection, completely wrongfooting Szczepaniak and ending up in the net to make it 2-0.
Flint’s solitary effort on goal in the opening period came a minute later when a ball was played into Omar Ibrahim. He elected to take an early shot rather than trying to round the imposing figure of Ryan Astles, and Connor Roberts collected it comfortably.
Ibrahim and Danny Harrison were replaced at the break, as Lee Fowler tried to give his team fresh impetus by bringing on Larnell Cole and Jayden Major, with Hughes now occupying a deeper role.
However, before the changes could start to take effect, Flint found themselves 3-0 down, when Declan McManus flicked home a ball in the 48th minute, as the Silkmen’s static defence failed to react to the danger.
But the changes did eventually start to tell, as Flint belatedly closed down and harried their opponents as Hughes, Cole and Major made their presence felt, aided by Bobby Beaumont. They pulled one back in the 60th minute, following a Hughes inswinging corner to the back post which Harry Owen connected with to force the ball over the line,
Hughes then hit a snapshot from the edge of the box , that Roberts just about managed to palm away.
Daniel Williams was then penalised for handball in the Saints box, and Jean-Louis Akpa-Akpro confidently tucked away the penalty to bring the score back to 3-2 in the 68th minute, and it briefly looked as though it was very much game on.
The Saints had other ideas, though, and the introduction of Ryan Brobbel into the game put them very much back on the front foot. He was all too often allowed to overload down the left, and have a free run in on goal. On 70 minutes he hit a shot that Szczepaniak did well to parry , but two minutes later a cross from the left found McManus on the 6 yard line, who rose well to beat his marker and head home with the Flint keeper rooted to his line.
On 83 minutes, Brobbel again found himself in acres of space, and crossed to Leo Smith who tucked the ball in from close range.
Beaumont scudded a great 25 yard effort along the turf on 90 minutes, as Flint sought a consolation, but Roberts was equal to it, and he did well to push it around his post. It was the Saints who had the last word though, when in added on time, Diau allowed himself to be robbed of the ball on the byeline, as he was trying to usher it out of play, and Jake Canavan was on hand to slot home the cross, to perhaps give the scoreline a slightly flattering look to TNS, given the excellent response by Flint after they had gone 3-0 down.
Report by Nigel Sheen
Line Ups :
The New Saints – C. Roberts, J. Daniels, C. Marriott, D. Davies, R. Astles (A. Cieslewicz 52), D. Williams, L. Smith, J. Williams (R. Brobbel 61), D. McManus (B. Kirkman 87), D. Redmond, A. Wilson (J. Canavan 87). Unused Subs – D. Atherton (GK), J. Routledge, A. Baker
Flint Town United – D. Szczepaniak, J. Carroll (M. Roberts 88), O. Ibrahim (L. Cole 46), B. Diau, H. Owen, D. Harrison (J. Major 46), B. Beaumont, J. Owen (c) (J. Hindle 55), J-L Akpa-Akpro, B. Hughes (H. Brindley-Peagram 82), T. Garratt. Unused Subs – H. Allen (GK), E. Akobeto
Flint MOM – Ben Hughes (excellent all round performance from the youngster who was instrumental in his side’s mini-revival)
Photo courtesy of Andrew Donnison @F28online