Airbus UK Broughton FC had their Welsh Cup dreams shattered following a sensational performance by Huws-Gray Alliance side Cefn Druids in the semi-final tie at Rhyl FC's Belle Vue stadium. The Wingmakers had never been this far in the competition before, but such progress is little consolation when being denied within touching distance of potential silverware.
In truth, the Wingmakers were up against it from the start with injuries to Niki-Lee Bulmer, Glenn Rule and Ryan Edwards, plus suspensions for Adam Worton and Craig Whitfield keeping half a team of key players out of the game. With others having just passed fitness tests too, Director of Football Andy Preece had his options limited and with little choice but to play some players out of position.
The pressure was off the Druids who arrived as underdogs and made the stronger start to the game. Early pressure from them in the opening minutes saw Jay Connolly deflect a corner into the arms of Andy Mulliner. Both teams took time to settle in the cagey opening stages which also saw a Mark Cadwallader header at goal caught comfortably by Druids goalkeeper Chris Mullock.
Adam Hesp's long-throws helped Druids enjoy a spell of possession at around quarter of an hour gone. However the game was an end-to-end scrappy affair with both teams looking for better quality in the final third. The Wingmakers best chance during this period came from a long-ball latched onto by Mark Danks. When through one-on-one with Mullock in the penalty area the goalkeeper got just enough of a hand to the ball to turn Danks goal-bound shot wide.
There was a scare for the Wingmakers on 20 minutes when goalkeeper Andy Mulliner spilled a Joe Price cross but the Airbus defence were able to clear their lines. The Druids Tom McElmeel then fired a shot off target and his sight of goal served as a warning to the Wingmakers. On 25 minutes a Warren Duckett cross into the area was headed into the top corner by Tony Cann to put the Druids 1-0 up.
Sensing a surprise cup shock was on the cards the Druids pressed forward to take hold of the game, with Andrew Swarbrick going close just after half-an-hour. On 39 minutes the Druids found themselves 2-0 up when an excellent low ball into the area from Joe Price was turned home at the near-post by Swarbrick. It was hard to argue that the underdogs were not deserving of their lead by this point.
As the game approached half-time the Wingmakers began to pour forward in search of the goal that would get them back into the game. From a corner a Danny Grannon header took a deflection and looked destined for the back of the net until it was turned expertly away by Mullock. Nev Thompson also struck a shot over from close-range. The Druids were camped in their area but managed to hold-out until the break.
At the interval the Wingmakers made a double substitution with Josh Roberts and Jon Bathurst coming on to replace Jay Connolly and Danny Grannon respectively. The changes saw Gavin Cadwallader drop back into the back-four as the Wingmakers looked to salvage the game. On 51 minutes they began to do just that with the bizarre help of the officials.
As the referee blew the whistle for a foul by the Wingmakers Nev Thompson, play continued as a clearance from the Druids Mark Harris struck his team-mate Marc Griffiths ending with the ball nestling in the back of their own net. To the surprise of both sides the referee awarded the own goal by Griffiths and the Wingmakers were back in the game at 2-1.
Unfortunately the Airbus fightback did not last long. Just a few minutes later a ball to the far-post was turned home by Tony Cann for his second goal of the game, to restore the Druids two-goal advantage at 3-1. On 58 minutes Joe Price had a volley at goal but it was easy for Mulliner to hold. At the other end a Mark Cadwallader strike narrowly missed the top corner for Airbus.
After the hour-mark the pattern of play was fairly even with Cefn Druids understandably having the edge. The Wingmakers were struggling for quality in the final third although both teams looked very capable from set-pieces. With 20 minutes to go it was still end-to-end with both clubs desperate to win the game and the Wingmakers not totally out of it.
The result of the game was put beyond all doubt, however, with 10 minutes to go. The Druids Tony Cann won a header on the edge of the Airbus area and flicked on for Andrew Swarbrick. The Druids forward continued into the area and found the far corner with a low-shot from a tight angle for his second goal of the game, and to make it 4-1. The goal sealed Cefn Druids place in the Welsh Cup final.
Cefn Druids made their only substitution on 83 minutes with Paul Speed coming on to replace Swarbrick. To their credit the Wingmakers persevered with Mike Hayes driving a shot wide with two minutes to go. In stoppage-time an Eddie Hope drive was turned over in the six-yard box by Gavin Cadwallader which summed up the Wingmakers day with the result by now a formality.
Congratulations go to Cefn Druids and all their players and staff for making it to the Welsh Cup Final for the first time in over a century, after an incredible performance on the day. The Wingmakers are their latest victims in an against-the-odds cup run that has seen them turn over WPL sides Prestatyn Town and Aberystwyth Town along the way.
For the Wingmakers - everything that could go wrong did go wrong during the game. Despite the disappointment, all is not lost. There is still a play-off place in the league with possible European qualification to play for. Everyone at the club will be looking to put this game behind them as soon as possible and move on, hoping for a strong finish to the season.
Airbus - 1: Andy Mulliner 2: Danny Taylor 3: Tommy Holmes 4: Jay Connolly (J.Roberts) 5: Danny Grannon (Bathurst) 6: Gavin Cadwallader 7: Eddie Hope 8: Mark Cadwallader 9: Neville Thompson 10: Mark Danks 11: Mike Hayes
Subs - 12: Jon Bathurst 14: Glenn Rule 15: Josh Roberts 16: Josh Griffiths 17: Arron Morrison
Cefn Druids - 1: Chris Mullock 2: Mark Harris 3: Joe Price 4: Adam Hesp 5: Max Peate 6: George Hughes 7: Andrew Swarbrick (Speed) 8: Tom McElmeel 9: Tony Cann 10: Marc Griffiths 11: Warren Duckett
Subs - 12: John Keegan 14: Kieran Quinn 15: Paul Speed 16: Ian Hughes 17: Craig Herling
By Rory Sheehan