EXPERIENCE won out as The New Saints crushed the dreams of Cardiff Met in the final of the Nathaniel MG Cup.
TNS continued their dominance of Welsh football to lift their ninth Cup but stubborn student side Cardiff Met should be proud of their achievement.
A bumper crowd of 902 at Park Avenue, Aberystwyth, provided an electric atmosphere ahead of the intriguing fixture.
The Archers were put under the cosh early on, as they repelled wave after wave of TNS attacks. A last-ditch clearance on the line prevented Met from going behind early on.
Full-back Simon Spender and winger Jamie Mullan offered a constant threat down the right, skipping past the Met defence and crossing dangerously but lacking an end product.
As the first-half wore on, Met began to find their feet, showing the qualities that had got them this far – being calm in possession, inventive in attack and solid at the back.
On 32 minutes, Met striker, Dan Spencer, was played in on goal and finished with aplomb. As the net rippled, the crowd erupted. Their celebration was soon halted however, as the linesman had deemed Spencer to be offside.
This was Met close to their best and they will have begrudged the referee as he brought the first-half to an end. The second-half picked up where it left off with both sides having chances early on. Aeron Edwards had the best of these chances, the elusive midfielder blazing over the bar when it seemed easier to score.
TNS were beginning to show their class, and after an hour of knocking on the door, they finally found a way to break the deadlock, Jamie Mullan finishing emphatically from a tight angle. This really was a challenge now for Cardiff Met. In three previous cup final triumphs, TNS had not conceded a single goal.
The Saints threatened to put the game to bed in the final 20 minutes. First Alex Darlington powered a shot at the post before Ryan Brobbel cut in from the wing and curled an effort inches wide of the post.
It finished 1-0. Cardiff Met were no walk-overs and gave TNS are real game of it. Met can take a lot of positives back to Cardiff as well as invaluable big-game experience.
After the game, Met manager Christian Edwards said: “Whenever you lose a cup final it’s always hard to take but I’m very proud of the players because I thought they put a fantastic shift in against a very good side and congratulations to TNS.”
“It was tight. We’re questioning the offside goal, whether it was offside or on and we’ve been told it’s on but that’s what happens in football. We worked hard, we had a game plan, they had a game plan and we were a bit edgy for the first 15/20 minutes but we grew into the game and towards the end we were right on the front foot.”
“We were playing against a very good outfit and we played as best as we could I felt and I’m very proud of the players today.”
Focus will now turn to setting off on another cup run. The Archers face the visit of Aberystwyth Town in the Welsh Cup on Saturday.
How Cardiff Met (left) and The New Saints (right) lined up