The Europa League qualifying really takes centre stage this Thursday. We have an all British affair on our hands as Welsh Premier League runners up play host to third-placed Scottish Premiership Kilmarnock. There is a definite gulf between the two leagues and that should be considered when comparing their league positions obviously.
Connah’s Quay impressed most last season as they gave TNS a right good battle in the title chase, only to fall off towards the end of the season following the split. Over the previous two seasons, they’ve closed the gap on runaway leaders of the last decade and that’s really a testament to how they’ve improved. They aren’t strangers to the early rounds of qualifying with this being their fourth consecutive time in the first round, also holding an impressive victory over Norwegian side Stabaek in 2016/17.
Likewise, Kilmarnock enjoyed a phenomenal season by their standards, led by the Scotland National team departed Steve Clarke. It really will show the true grit of this Kilmarnock team if they continue in the same vein as last year even without their influential manager at the helm. For large parts of last season, they were as much involved in the title chase as both Glaswegian clubs Celtic and Rangers were. However, with this being their first visit into European competition in nearly twenty years, this is by no means going to be a walkover.
All the media attention has been around Jamie Insall, the troublesome former Hibs player is currently leading the line at Connah’s Quay following his ban after using cocaine. Looking to rebuild his career, he landed on the front door of Connah’s Quay and hasn’t looked back. Connah’s Quay boss Andy Morrison has been vocal in the media this week stating his side will be going toe to toe with the Scottish outfit. Playing at home in the first leg, I’d be expecting Connah’s Quay to not hold back too much. With their home advantage, you’d think that Michael Bakere and Chris Morris would have their shackles taken off a bit and look to build on a successful goal-scoring season last year.
Killie on the other hand, fresh from appointing their new manager Angelo Alessio, the former Chelsea and Juventus man will be looking to get his competitive season off to a flyer. Kilmarnock haven’t invested too much this summer in the transfer market, but keeping hold of the likes of Stephen O’Donnell, Greg Taylor and most importantly Eamonn Brophy proves for a very good summer. They will however be without Jordan Jones as the winger has completed a move to Rangers this summer and will be sorely missed.
With Connah’s Quay not really holding back in this first leg home tie and Kilmarnock being the more talented side, I’m expecting both teams to find the scoresheet and you can get that @ 1.90. In my opinion the gulf in class won’t be as dramatic as the bookmakers have it and for that reason, I like the price of Connah’s Quay on the handicap (+2) @ 1.83. For a larger outside price, another bet I like the look of is Kilmarnock Win @ BTTS @ 2.75, as I’ve said, I don’t think either team will hold back, but Kilmarnock’s class should shine through.
From a goalscorer perspective, I’m looking no further than Eamonn Brophy at 1.72, after a prolific season last time out, he’ll be looking to continue where he left off and get Angelo Allesio’s tenure off to a flyer.