0 - 2
Kilmarnock FC vs Connah's Quay Nomads
UEFA Europa League
Thursday 18th July 2019 | 6:00pm
Rugby Park, Kilmarnock, Scotand | Attendance: 8306
Connah's Quay Nomads recorded Welsh Football's best ever result on Thursday evening, defeating Scottish Premier Football League side Kilmarnock by two goals to nil to secure a 3-2 victory on aggregate.
Despite losing the first leg 2-1, and being written off by many as soon as the Welsh-Scottish draw was made, second half goals from Ryan Wignall and Callum Morris booked Connah's Quay a place in the second qualifying round, where they will face Partizan Belgrade of Serbia.
• Nomads the underdogs in Kilmarnock's first European game at home for 18 years
• A rigid defensive performance and excellent saves from Lewis Brass frustrated the hosts
• A 50th minute Ryan Wignall header sent Nomads ahead
• Callum Morris converted penalty to make it 3-2 on aggregate in the 79th
• Both teams finished with 10 men in night of high drama at Rugby Park
The game was perhaps Nomads' most high profile European clash, following their previous draws against the likes of regular Finnish champions HJK Helsinki and Shakhtyor Soligorsk of Belarus.
Going into the encounter, they were looking to repeat their previous heroics in the competition, having beaten Stabæk of Norway 1-0 in 2016, becoming the first Welsh club to progress in Europe without conceding over two legs.
Whilst the near 18,000 capacity Rugby Park was new territory for Nomads, the trip to Scotland was a familiar one following their Irn Bru Cup run in the previous season, which saw them travel to Falkirk, Queen's Park's Hampden Park, and Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Andy Morrison's side were tasked with turning around a 2-1 aggregate scoreline in Killie's favour despite a strong first leg performance from Connah's Quay. For much of the game they dealt with Angelo Alessio's side's threatening attacks, taking a shock 1-0 lead in the 76th minute only for Kilmarnock to seal victory with a Stuart Findlay goal deep into injury time.
The Nomads manager chose an almost identical line up from the first leg, with only one change seeing Danny Harrison replaced by Ryan Wignall who joined an attacking line led by Michael Wilde, who was heavily involved in Nomads' opening goal at Rhyl.
Killie also opted for only one change, as new signing Mohamed El Makrini, a Dutch midfielder from Roda CJ Kerkrade, replaced Dominic Thomas with last week's goalscorer Findlay also starting.
The first action of the game came in the fifth minute, when from a Rory McKenzie free kick, the ball fell to Findlay who shot around eight yards from goal but had the effort saved by a good low stop from Brass.
Nomads' first chance came in the 9th, and it was a big one as Morris did well to dribble into the final third, pass to Wilde on his left and receive the ball around seven yards from goal only to send his effort wide.
Kilmarnock responded to this almost instantly, splitting the Nomads defence to see Kirk Broadfoot have an effort on goal which was dealt with by Brass, who then jumped up to acrobatically save a follow up effort by pushing it away from the top left corner.
After the first quarter of play, Nomads were standing up to a fast paced Kilmarnock side who were constantly looking for ways into the Deesiders' area.
Greg Taylor, who scored an own goal in the first leg, went agonisingly close to getting the opener for Killie on 18 minutes when he went within three yards of the goal but couldn't get enough on his headed effort.
In the 25th, Chris Burke ran into the right side of the Nomads' area and was intercepted by Horan, but the ball bounced back allowing him to send a wicked effort into the side netting.
Four minutes later there was no let up from Killie, but they were still frustrated as Findlay struck the post before an onslaught of moves and strikes towards the Nomads' goalmouth still didn't yield an opener.
In the 37th minute, Nomads got into the Killie half and won two consecutive corners which failed to produce a clear chance on goal.
In the 42nd, a free kick was won in a good position around 30 yards from the Killie goal. Callum Roberts sent a good delivery into the area, but it swung close to keeper MacDonald who collected it.
Half time arrived and Nomads went in knowing they were doing well to frustrate Kilmarnock, but that they needed two goals of their own to realise the dream of progressing to the second qualifying round.
And Andy Morrison's side wasted little time in finding one after the restart, taking a surprise 1-0 led in the 49th via Ryan Wignall. From a Callum Roberts cross, Wignall sent a header low into the Killie goal to put Rugby Park in a state of shock.
Boosted by the opener, the Nomads were looking confident as they stuck to their disciplined shape and continued to block out Killie as they frantically searched for an equaliser.
The hosts took two free kicks around 30 yards out from Brass' goal as the hour marked approached, but both efforts hit the wall.
In the 63rd, Nomads' incredible efforts all over the pitch were seen when a darting run down the wing from Danny Holmes was followed by vital defensive interceptions from wingers Bakare and Wignall as they remained resilient in the face of Killie's pressure.
In the 70th minute, Jamie Insall was introduced in place of Michael Bakare, and it would prove an inspired substitution as the striker, on his return to Scotland, played a key part in the winning goal which came on 79 minutes.
Insall raced down the middle of the Killie half as he looked to get a shot away in the area, but was pulled down by Stuart Findlay who was shown a red card for the challenge.
This meant a penalty for Nomads, with their resident taker Callum Morris making no mistake from the spot to put his club just 11 minutes away from making European history for their country.
The final stage of the game was played in front of a raucous atmosphere in Rugby Park as the home fans urged their side to find a way back into the game.
In the 82nd minute, Killie's goal still didn't come when a headed effort went off the crossbar, with Nomads making a defensive change in the 84th when Callum Roberts was replaced by Priestley Farquharson.
Nomads were then reduced to ten men on 85 minutes when a challenge from Wignall on Innes Cameron saw him get a second yellow card and subsequently get dismissed.
With both teams now playing with ten the game continued at a rapid pace, and Nomads were still holding their own as time began to run out for Killie at Rugby Park.
Four additional minutes of injury time were indicated by the fourth official, and throughout this Nomads kept cool heads in the face of a historic result, nearly scoring a third when Insall sent a low strike wide from around eight yards out in the 93rd.
Full time sent the Welsh Football world into raptures as it celebrated a historic result which had seen a part time club from Wales eliminate Scotland's top flight third place finishers, away from home, and with a first leg loss to overturn.
The victory is yet another remarkable result for manager Andy Morrison, who since taking the helm of the club in 2015 has led them out of the relegation zone and into four consecutive European qualifications, won the JD Welsh Cup, secured a place in the Irn Bru Cup Final, and now masterminded Welsh Football's greatest ever night.
The Nomads' reward for the stunning victory is a tie with Serbian giants Partizan Belgrade. The first leg will take place at Rhyl's Educate Group Stadium on Thursday 25 July, with the second leg taking place at Partizan on Thursday 1 August.
Match report by Will Catterall
Lewis Brass celebrates following his immense performance in keeping a clean sheet | © NCM Media
Ryan Wignall heads The Nomads ahead | © NCM Media
Callum Morris converts from the spot to send The Nomads 2-0 up | © NCM Media
Declan Poole takes on the Killie defence | © NCM Media
Jamie Insall who won the crucial penalty almost made it three for The Nomads in the dying seconds of the game | © NCM Media