The new Airbus UK Broughton FC management team led by Andy Preece got off to a dream start in this League Cup Quarter-Final 1st leg at home to Bala Town. For their first game in charge they made a number of changes - one of the most noticeable being a competitive Wingmakers debut for Ross Rule alongside his older brother and captain Glenn. Lining-up for the visitors was former Airfield favourite Ian Sheridan, returning to his old club less than a fortnight after his transfer to Bala.
Airbus made an enterprising start with Bala having to clear their lines early on. Unfortunately after two minutes the game was held-up for a lengthy stoppage due to a serious injury to Bala goalkeeper Mark Pullman in a collision with Craig Whitfield. Eventually Pullman was stretchered off and replaced with Terry McCormick - with everyone from both clubs wishing Pullman a speedy recovery, after the third serious injury suffered by a Bala player at the Airfield this month.
Tackles flew in during the early stages with Airbus pushing forward, and Bala's Ben Collins found himself with a yellow card to his name on quarter of an hour after a rash challenge. On 17 minutes the game was to change completely when McCormick hauled down Craig Whitfield in the area. Harshly, the referee had no other option but to award a penalty and show McCormick the red card. Bala were now down to 10 men and without a recognised goalkeeper as midfielder Mark Connolly went between the sticks.
Mark Cadwallader stepped up to take the penalty for the Wingmakers and coolly sent Connolly the wrong way, with a low shot to his left. Airbus now had a 1-0 lead and a man advantage.The game took on an even more surreal air on 25 minutes with another long-stopage due to an injury to one of the referee's assistants - requiring the fourth official to pick up the flag and deputise. Minutes later an injury to Airbus left-back Danny Taylor saw him replaced with Josh Roberts.
The game was certainly turning into a memorable debut for Preece and assistant Andy Morrison when on half an hour there was yet another change due to injury. On this occasion Steff Edwards had to be replaced with Conall Murtagh for Bala. Understandably due to the stop-start nature of the game, it lacked rhythm. Airbus goalkeeper Niki-Lee Bulmer had to be alert to a low shot from Sheridan on 35 minutes while at the other end Glenn Rule went narrowly wide for the Wingmakers.
Ryan Edwards attempted a long-range drive for Airbus but couldn't find the target before Sheridan used his blistering pace for Bala to get beyond the Wingmakers defence. However once into the area he was at an angle and could only strike the outside of the post. On 45 minutes Mark Cadwallader latched onto a ball into the area and beat Connolly at his near-post to grab his second goal of the night and make it 2-0 to Airbus.
There were 10 minutes of stoppage-time at the end of the half during which Bala were forced to make yet another substitution - Stuart Jones replacing Danny Williams. The score remained 2-0 at half-time after what had been an injury-interrupted first-half for both teams. At the break the Wingmakers made another change in defence with Mark Allen replacing Tommy Holmes.
Following the interval Mark Cadwallader saw a shot cleared from the goalmouth and Glenn Rule also tested Connolly. On 57 minutes the makeshift goalkeeper went on to make a terrific one-handed save from alow Ryan Edwards shot as the Wingmakers began to dominate. To their credit Bala gave everything in spite of their misfortune.
The Wingmakers made it 3-0 just after the hour mark when Glenn Rule leaped highest inside the six-yard box to loft a header over Connolly and extend the Airbus advantage further. There was then another injury-related substitution when Craig Whitfield picked up a knock and was replaced with Josh Griffiths for Airbus. The changes did little to alter the course of the game though and the Wingmakers were soon further in front.
On 68 minutes an Airbus corner resulted in Gavin Cadwallader nodding home at the near post to make it 4-0 and give the Wingmakers a huge lead to take into the away leg. The visitors remained competitive however and a shot narrowly off-target from Peter Doran showed they were still capable, with the prompting of Mark Jones and pace of Sheridan, when they reached the final third.
With just 13 minutes to go Bala pulled an away goal back when a deep cross was turned home at the near post by Wingmakers defender Mark Allen - his second own goal for Bala within a month. Five minutes later a tame shot from Mark Jones was easily held by Bulmer but Bala were playing well considering the circumstances they found themselves in.
Both sides had one last chance in the latter stages. Great work by Mark Cadwallader in the area presented him with the chance to grab a hat-trick but the angle was too narrow for him to get a shot on target. At the other end Ian Sheridan had one last attempt to score against his old club but his shot was deflected over and that was the last of the action.
Despite the hold-ups throughout the game this was a good Airbus performance, and an excellent start which will give the new management team plenty to think about as they settle in at the Airfield. Just as importantly it gives the Wingmakers a commanding lead to take into the second-leg of the tie at Maes Tegid - with Bala likely to be cursing their luck on the night.
Airbus - 1: Niki-Lee Bulmer 2: Danny Taylor (Roberts) 3: Adam Worton 4: Tommy Holmes (Allen) 5: Gavin Cadwallader 6: Glenn Rule (c) 7: Ryan Edwards 8: Mark Cadwallader 9: Eddie Hope 10: Craig Whitfield (Griffiths) 11: Ross Rule
Subs - 12: Mark Allen 14: Josh Roberts 15: Shaun McCartney 16: Lee Jones 17: Josh Griffiths
Bala - 1: Mark Pullman (McCormick) 2: John Irving 3: Ben Collins 4: Mike Sharples 5: Danny Williams (S.Jones) 6: Peter Doran 7: Mark Connolly 8: Mark Jones (c) 9: Ian Sheridan 10: Chris Mason 11: Steff Edwards (Murtagh)
Subs - 12: Lee Hunt 14: Stuart Jones 15: Ross Jeffries 16: Conall Murtagh 17: Terry McCormick 18: Dan Lloyd
By Rory Sheehan