The Bluebirds of Haverfordwest Are Flying High in Europe

Haverfordwest County are likely to celebrate all weekend after their magnificent maiden triumph in their first campaign in European football.

The Cymru Premier club beat North Macedonian side Shkendija 3-2 on penalties in an exhilarating night at Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday.

It was Lee Jenkins’ remarkable 89th-minute goal that sealed a 1-0 victory for County on the night, bringing the aggregate score to 1-1 in the second leg of their Europa Conference League first round tie.

Once again, the hero was Haverfordwest goalkeeper Zac Jones – a man who has made a name for himself with dramatic spot kick saves at domestic level.

After extra time brought no additional goals, setting the stage for a nerve-wracking shoot-out, Jazz Richards, Jack Wilson, and Kai Whitmore all displayed composure by successfully converting their penalties.

However, it all came down to Jones, whose crucial save denied Florent Ramadani’s decisive North Macedonian spot-kick, propelling County to victory.

The celebrations that followed were unforgettable, as players, staff, and more than 1,500 enthusiastic fans who had journeyed from west Wales to the capital, erupted with joy.

Haverfordwest manager Tony Pennock said: “Just getting into Europe this season was huge for us, but to have another round is just amazing for everyone involved with the club.

“The boys put in an unbelievable shift against a very good side and when you’ve got belief and you stick together, anything can happen.

“We will enjoy this result and then regroup for the next round. But right now, it’s hard to put into words what this means for everyone.”

Wales’ other clubs battling for European glory failed to make it past the opening round.

In the Champions League qualifying round, The New Saints bowed out on Wednesday after they lost 2-0 at home to BK Hacken of Sweden – losing 5-1 on aggregate.

The Saints will drop down to the Europa Conference League and will host Luxembourg’s Swift Hesper on Tuesday, July 25.

TNS manager Craig Harrison said: “I thought we acquitted ourselves very, very well.

“The players stuck at it, and we had some opportunities in the second half, but they’re a very good team and I can’t be disappointed in the effort that all the players gave.”

Connah’s Quay also went out at the first hurdle in the Europa Conference League, losing 4-0 on aggregate to Iceland’s KA Akureyri.

After a 2-0 away defeat, the Nomads were beaten by the same scoreline at home.

Nomads boss Neil Gibson said: “They probably had better quality in the final moments and when we did have opportunities, we didn’t take them and I thought we had a perfectly good goal ruled out as well.

“Things conspired against us and it wasn’t to be.”

Also out are Penybont, who were in Europe for the first time but did themselves proud before losing 3-1 on aggregate to the Andorran club, FC Santa Coloma.

The first leg at Bridgend was a tight 1-1 draw, but Penybont slipped up when the return leg went to extra time after a goalless 90 minutes.