A superb defensive display from The 'Bus that can only have impressed any prospective sponsors watching as they hoicked themselves back into 10th place in the push to qualify for and mount an assault on next year's Super Twelve.
As nil-nil draws go this was as absorbing as any goal-infested game and but for a piece of lax linesmanship that failed to spot a Rhys Roberts header had crossed the line, leaving secretary Big Phil apoplectic with rage, the lads could even have come away with a momentous win. Never overawed and not remotely fazed when TNS put the pressure on in the second half, the whole side came off with heads held high and ready to take the same quality to the next big match, at Richmond Park on Saturday.
Not that the Saints didn't want it from the start. They swooped down the field in the 5th minute, Scott Ruscoe crossing to ex-Wingmaker Craig Jones who fired in a shot fended out by the right leg of Kristian Rogers straight to Craig Williams who hammered the rebound over. Four minutes later came Rhys' goal-that-never-was that beat Paul Harrison all ends up before being hooked away from under the bar and a yard into the net. Then a minute later, from a Ryan Edwards cross, Giovanni Feliciello steadied himself and fizzed in a shot that curled past the angle. Later Carl Owen teed up a ground-hugger that got a deflection out for a corner with Harrison stationary. Up the other end Tommy Holmes gracefully stormed in to unleash a fine drive that clipped the top of the bar and bounced over.
Into the second half and the marvellous Craig Jones, still out to make a point against a club he feels underrated him (well done, Bickerstaffe) raced down the wing and with The 'Bus fans holding their breath in anticipation of the inevitable goal, cut in but shot over. The away side were then at the throats of Airbus, cranking up the pressure in a major offensive. Kris Rogers pulled off a terrific reaction save from the revitalised Chris Sharp, now enjoying himself after his move from Bangor, turning a venomous drive wide of the post one-handed. Craig Jones was there again, on the end of a long cross but couldn't guide it in. Airbus weathered it all in a calm and assured way, playing the ball out safely when necessary with a bit of hoofing when needed, otherwise passing it sensibly & working the ball patiently up field in their own counter moves, from one of which James McIntosh controlled, took aim & fired wide. Suddenly the wind seemed to be taken out of the Saints' sails a little, Airbus' confidence growing by the minute and there was the realisation they had never really looked like conceding and surrendering their well-earned point.
Ryan Edwards, Rhys
Allen, Jamie Smith,
James McIntosh (Marc
Carl Owen (Gary
Sub not used: Josh