Airbus UK Broughton FC maintained their position at the top of the Welsh Premier play-off conference with this 3-1 win over Newtown. The visitors are struggling against relegation this season and with so many players involved having played for both clubs there was much at stake. For many of the Wingmakers squad a place in next week's Welsh Cup semi-final against Cefn Druids was up for grabs.
Veteran 41-year-old goalkeeper Andy Mulliner returned for Airbus in place of long-term injury victim Niki-Lee Bulmer, while Danny Desormeaux also returned to the squad after his leave of absence stretching back to before Christmas.
After only two minutes Mulliner was called on to tip a free-kick over the bar but it was the Wingmakers who began the game the brightest. However, after only three minutes they found themselves down to ten men for the rest of the game. A challenge from Craig Whitfield earned the young forward a debatable second red card of the season.
Former Wingmaker Matty Cook shot from distance on six minutes but could not find the target. Despite the setback of going down to ten men the Wingmakers were beginning to look the much better side and continued to attack positively. They took the lead on 14 minutes when an Adam Worton free-kick slipped through the fingers of Newtown goalkeeper Nick Thomas for an unlikely goal. It was no less than the Wingmakers deserved for their enterprising start.
With 17 minutes gone Nev Thompson saw a glancing header go wide as Airbus began to pile on the pressure. On 23 minutes a great through-ball from Mike Hayes found Thompson who powered into the area and found the bottom corner of the net. The Wingmakers had their second goal of the game, reflecting their superiority and were cruising.
Mark Cadwallader missed a good opportunity at the near-post for Airbus as the game approached the half-hour mark with the Wingmakers in total control. The visitors were reduced to trying to test Mulliner from distance such was the Wingmakers dominance. On 42 minutes they made it 3-0 when Mike Hayes drove a low shot beyond Thomas from outside of the area. Just before the interval Nev Thompson fired narrowly wide which proved to be the last chance of the half.
As the Wingmakers went into the break it seemed only a question of how many how many more goals they would net. They suffered a blow however with skipper Glenn Rule having picked up a knock, leading to him being replaced with Eddie Hope at half-time. Following the resumption Airbus continued to work hard and make it seem as if it was the they who appeared to have an extra man and not the visitors.
On 53 minutes Newtown made a change with Callum Wright coming on in place of Steve Blenkinsop. A minute later the visitors' Zac Evans earned a yellow card for a late challenge. To their credit Newtown did try to raise their game with Matty Cook - their eldest player at only 26-years-old - firing another shot over the bar.
The Wingmakers made another change on 64 minutes with Nev Thompson also having picked up an injury being replaced with Jon Bathurst. Soon after, Mike Hayes tried an audacious chip from the edge of the area which beat the goalkeeper but went narrowly over the bar. Airbus continued to be the better side without being quite as ruthless as they were in the first-half.
Play was held up with around 20 minutes to go due to Wingmakers goalkeeper Mulliner requiring treatment for cramp. The game quietened down towards the latter stages with Newtown not posing much of a threat and the Wingmakers comfortably ahead - but there was still drama left. Suddenly, with ten minutes to go, left-back Adam Worton was penalised for an innocuous tackle inside the area. To the surprise of all at the Airfield the ex-Newtown skipper was shown a red card and the visitors were awarded a penalty. Zac Evans sent Mulliner the wrong way from the spot to pull the game back to 3-1 on 81 minutes.
Forced to finish the game with nine men - the Wingmakers replaced Mark Danks with Danny Desormeaux making his comeback just ahead of the last five minutes. The Wingmakers more than held their own despite their numerical disadvantage in the dying moments of the game. Ultimately they held out with an incredibly professional performance in difficult circumstances to take the three points.
Airbus now head into next week's Welsh Cup semi-final with Cefn Druids full of confidence but with a squad hit by injury and and now suspension to Craig Whitfield and Adam Worton. However - this game showed that they can deal with any setback and with potential, historic Welsh Cup glory ahead - will be more than ready for whatever challenges lie in wait at Rhyl's Belle Vue ground.
Airbus - 1: Andy Mulliner 2: Danny Taylor 3: Adam Worton 4: Tommy Holmes 5: Jay Connolly 6: Glenn Rule (c) 7: Craig Whitfield 8: Mark Cadwallader 9: Nev Thompson (Bathurst) 10: Mark Danks (Desormeaux) 11: Mike Hayes
Subs - 12: Eddie Hope 14: Danny Grannon 15: Jon Bathurst 16: Danny Desormeaux 17: Josh Roberts
Newtown - 1: Nick Thomas 2: Gareth Partridge 3: Kieron Mills-Evans 4: Matty Cook (c) 5: Andy Jones 6: Shane Sutton 7: Zac Evans 8: Steve Blenkinsop (Wright) 9: Nick Rushton 10: Luke Boundford 11: Jamie Price
Subs - 12: Connor Courtney 14: Tom Worthington 15: Callum Wright
By Rory Sheehan