Wellington-born goalkeeper Zac Jones will play in Europe next season after his penalty save helped his Welsh club qualify for the Europa Conference League.
Playing in the JD Cymru Premier European play-off final on Sunday (May 14, NZT), Jones’ Haverfordwest County side needed penalties to get past favourites Newtown when the sides were locked 1-1 after extra time.
Jones (22), who saved three penalties in the semi-final a week earlier, stood his ground to out-bluff a Newton player’s attempt to blast his spot kick up the middle, blocking the penalty and helping his side to a 4-3 shootout win.
Main photo: Jones, in pink (right) celebrates with teammates after the trophy presentation.
Former Wellington Phoenix ‘keeper Jones has become a fans’ favourite during the play-off series, with supporters chanting “Kiwis’ number one”, a reference to his New Zealand roots.
Jones has played for the New Zealand U-17 and U-20 sides and before heading to Wales, was backup for Oli Sail at the Phoenix, as well as playing for Team Wellington, Wellington Olympic and Miramar Rangers.
Explaining his move to Wales to Cymru Football, Jones said: “I do have some Welsh blood in me; my grandfather is from here!
“When people realise, particularly with my surname, they are like ‘of course!’.
“I was staying with family in Swansea and looking for new opportunities in football. I was put in touch with Haverfordwest as I have a mutual connection with the previous manager, Nicky Hayen. It was an easy decision to come here.
“It is a more physical league than in New Zealand, so I found it difficult to begin with, but I feel like I have adapted well now, and I am really enjoying it.”
Haverfordwest County will go into next season’s qualifying round for the Europa Conference League, the first time the club has reached European competition in 20 years.
Watch the game
The full game is available to watch here, including the penalty shootout and trophy presentation: