The New Saints ended Airbus UK Broughton's Welsh Cup hopes at the first hurdle on Bonfire Night with their first win at the Airfield in three attempts this season. Despite taking the lead and mounting a late fightback the Wingmakers failed to gain that elusive win to get them back on track.
With fireworks providing a colourful backdrop to the game the Wingmakers started brightly. Richie Partridge had the first shot at goal but Airbus saw more of the ball in the early stages. On 20 minutes the Wingmakers grabbed the goal they had been looking for. The Saints failed to clear a low cross from Nick Rushton and as it cannoned off a defender Carl Owen pounced in the 6 yard-box to make it 1-0 with a low shot.
The visitors seemed shaken after conceding and the Wingmakers were well on top. Matty Williams saw a shot go wide on half an hour but the presence of Carl Owen at the other end was causing the Saints a number of problems. On 36 minutes former Wingmaker Craig Jones burst through the Airbus back-line to shoot wide which served as a warning as to what was about to come.
On 37 minutes Ashley Williams was dispossessed on the edge of the area by Alex Darlington who ran on and made no mistake by giving Hawthorne little chance with his shot. The away side had levelled the game at 1-1 and immediately set out in search of the lead. Unfortunately for the Wingmakers they did not have to wait long.
A minute before half-time the Saints raced downfield with the ball breaking off a defender into the path of Craig Jones to slot home and make it 2-1. The Wingmakers could feel a little hard done by to be behind at the break after such a good start but the visitors had been clinical in taking the chances presented to them.
After the interval Leon Clowes was booked for a late challenge on 48 minutes as the Wingmakers frustrations began to show. Two minutes later they had a mountain to climb when a cross into the area was not dealt with and Matty Williams applied the close-range finish to make it 3-1 . After getting in behind the defence two minutes later Craig Jones went narrowly wide as he almost extended the Saints lead further.
On 53 minutes the Wingmakers added more firepower as Andy Moran replaced Phil Clarke. Carl Owen then crossed into the area for Nick Rushton but the on-loan striker's tame shot was staright at goalkeeper Paul Harrison. At the other end Matty Williams went near for the Saints again. On 58 minutes Alex Darlington turned well outside the area and fired over. A minute later Hawthorne had to save from Williams as the Saints pressure grew.
Past the hour mark Matty Woodward pushed forward and stabbed a shot wide before putting a couple of good balls into the area as the Wingmakers built up some pressure of their own. Only a great close-range block by Chris Sargeant stood between Carl Owen and his second goal of the night. Danny Desormaux also tried to chip the goalkeeper but Harrison sensed the chance and caught the ball.
With around 20 minutes to go both teams made changes. Ritchie Dorman replaced Leon Clowes for Airbus while Matty Berkeley came on in place of Alex Darlington for The New Saints. On 77 minutes Ashley Williams received a yellow card for a rash challenge as the visitors looked more and more comfortable as the game reached the latter stages.
A Connell Rawlinson free-kick was deflected onto the bar with 10 minutes to go before the Saints introduced Craig Williams in place of Ritchie Partridge. The Wingmakers also made another change on 83 minutes when Paul McManus replaced Ashley Williams. As the game drew to a close only some last-ditch defending stalled Matty Berkeley on his way towards goal. With three minutes to go Connell Rawlinson received a booking for dissent.
In the final minutes the Wingmakers pushed forward in numbers and dominated. Nick Rushton escaped the Saints defence only to see his shot clip the outside of the post. Soon after he crossed into the area for Carl Owen whose volley was straight at Harrison. In the 91st minute a push in the box on Mark Allen saw the Wingmakers awarded a penalty.
Andy Moran stepped up to convert the spot-kick by sending it low to Harrison's left as the goalkeeper dived the wrong way. The goal brought the score back to 3-2 but it proved too little too late as, shortly after The New Saints had defended a corner, the referee called time on the game. The Wingmakers had exited the Welsh Cup as the search for a win goes on.
Airbus - 1: Callum Hawthorne 2: Matty Woodward 3: Ryan Edwards 4: Leon Clowes (Dorman) 5: Mark Allen 6: Ashley Williams (McManus) 7: Phil Clarke (Moran) 8: Danny Desormeaux 9: Nick Rushton 10: Carl Owen 11: Gio Feliciello
Subs - 12: Andy Moran 14: Ritchie Dorman 15: Paul McManus 16: Tom Rowlands 17: Chris Doran
TNS - 1: Paul Harrison 3: Aeron Edwards 5: Chris Sargeant 4: Phil Baker 15: Connell Rawlinson 20: Alex Darlington (Berkeley) 7: Scott Ruscoe 14: Craig Jones 10: Matty Williams 27: Ritchie Partridge (C.Williams)
Subs - 99: Matthew Berkeley 18: Jamie Wood 11: Craig Williams 6: Tommy Holmes 29: Marcus Gigilo
By Rory Sheehan