The New Saints boss Scott Ruscoe believes his side are still in with a chance of progressing to the Europa League play-off round, despite defeat in Cardiff to FC Midtjylland.

Two sucker-punch set-piece goals in the first-half from Paul Onuachu was enough to give the Danes the advantage going into next week’s second leg in Denmark.

But while he was disappointed his side failed to deal with an aerial prowess he identified before the game, Ruscoe felt his side’s performance was excellent and is full of hope.

“The two set-pieces were very disappointing but our overall play was very good and we stuck to the plan,” said Ruscoe.

“It was like land of the giants for their set pieces and they score them every week with great delivery, which is right on the money. We got punished but in open play, they didn’t trouble us too much.

“People asked if I wanted to come out and press them tonight but I would remind them of the difference in class between the sides.

“If we did that, it would’ve been another 5-0 and I certainly didn’t want that. I am encouraged by the lads breaking like they did to play 20 yards up the pitch next week, but if we do, their midfield plays around and through us.

“They’ll pick you off. In Shkendija, we played a 4-4-2 off the ball to press and they went around us; I’m not going to do it again, no matter what people say. It’s only 2-0 which is not the worst performance in the world.

“I was delighted with the performance; the lads didn’t stop and we have an excellent side who work hard.”

Ruscoe says the message to his players will be simple for the second leg: be ruthless.

Saints created three first-half chances between both Danish goals but none were taken, leaving TNS with it all to do next week.

Ruscoe added: “The message is to take our chances early on.

“Danny Redmond should have scored early and he knows it – he’s scored in bigger places than this against teams as good as Midtjylland and you have to take your chances against teams like this.

“They were ruthless and we weren’t. How clear-cut chances did they make?

“We have to make changes for Sunday. We have to; you can’t keep using the same players so we’ll freshen it up.

“We move on now to the next biggest game of the season, which is the league on Sunday. But, we’re still in the tie and we know we can score with the players in the team and the pace we have.”

Midtjyllannd coach Kristian Bach Bak insisted the tie is not over and is expecting TNS to come out fighting next week.

“You could call that the perfect away win,” he said. “We were very happy with that result and we knew it was going to be a tough match, and we knew we would meet a team wo played deep.

“We were happy with the two quick goals. We showed it again how strong we are with set-pieces because we are good at them; it was a game plan for us that gave us a good start.

“But the tie is not over. If TNS score one, then it is a game and I think they will go higher up the pitch. We may show we can score from open play but it will be a tough game.”