Airbus UK Broughton travelled to Park Hall on Tuesday to face current Cup Holders The New Saints in the 1st Leg of this Season`s Cup Quarter Final.
The Wingmakers were on the wrong end of a 2-0 Scoreline which puts the Holders in a prime position to progress to the Semi Final Stage at the Airfield on October 5th. Airbus Manager Craig Harrison made 8 changes to his starting line up as expected and rested key players Matty Woodward, Kristian Rogers, Danny Desormeaux, Ashley Williams, Andy Moran and Carl Owen with Williams and Ryan Edwards on the bench at Park Hall.
Harrison elevated Tom Povey from the Reserves and Josh Gannon, Asa Hamilton and Jay Meacock from the youth team and all performed well on the night against quality opposition, fringe players also got their chance to get minutes under their belts and all to a man did themselves no harm in putting themselves in the thoughts of the Manager in Particular Simon Smith a recent new signing along with youngsters Paul McManus and Wrexham Youngster Nick Rushton impressing.
The New Saints fielded a strong side including the impressive ex-Wingmaker Craig Jones who was returning after injury, however rested Steve Evans and Matty Williams, it was another typical TNS Performance in terms of possession and the Park Hall outfit had over 75% of possession during the game, they took and early lead on 5 mins when Jamie Wood playing just off the front man found space just inside the area to rasp home a 16 yarder into the top corner leaving Callum Hawthorne with no chance.
The Dominance of the New Saints never really materialised into goals, half chances were on show but at times they were happy to just keep passing rather than go for the throat,their patience is to be admired and it usually bears fruit for the champions, all credit to Harrison`s charges on the night who kept their shape and worked extremley hard in ensuring the opposition went sideways rather than cutting through the middle, a tactic that worked against them on Friday in the League at the Airfield.
Wood got his Second of the game on 30mins with a low drive into the bottom corner, and for a few mins there was a fear that the Saints would become rampant, soon after Leon Clowes had to be replaced due to an ever concerning back injury not helped by the Park Hall 3G Pitch, he was replaced by Ryan Edwards playing at Centre Half and out of position.
The Wingmakers had a couple of chances late in the first half with both Paul McManus and Nick Rushton being thwarted by the agile Harrison in the Saints goal and after a flowing passing move Giovanni Feliciello had a chance with his trusted left peg that flew over the bar.
Airbus made it through to half time without conceding again and despite being 2 down Harrison and Thomas will have been proud of how hard the team had worked in those difficult opening 45 minutes.
The Second Half saw changes, but it did not change the style of the game, with Saints going from side to side at ease with the Wingmakers Midfield 5 shuffling across to counter act any central penetration, Cook and Clarke in particular doing well to close down their men, with McManus and Smith tucking in where required, Happy to allow their opponents to have the ball up to the Half Way Line Airbus were content to sit and wait, and to add more credit broke with pace and movement on the odd occaision they regained possession, Rushton doing well to get into pockets of space and Smith and McManus moving wider whilst attacking.
2 Additonal Changes saw young Josh Gannon replaced by Asa Hamilton and Skipper Mark Allen withdrawn on 60 minutes to be replaced by youngster Jay Meacock, this resulting in a re shuffle that saw Phil Clarke parter Ryan Edwards in central defence with McManus , Cook and Meacock playing as central midfielders with Smith and Hamilton in wider areas with Rushton ploughing a lone furrow up front, the Saints had chances to increase their lead hitting the Woodwork on at least 2 occaisions but lacked their usual clinical finishing.
Saints introduced Sharp and Partridge late on in an effort to increase the lead in the first leg put niether really had any effect on proceedings of note, indeed it was Airbus who could have snatched an away goal at the death when the Saints switched off, Matty Cook somehow got the ball through to Rushton who smashed a glorious chance at Harrison which would have given the Wingmakers additional hope for the return leg.
That said a fine nights work all round by the Whole Squad who have worked tremendously hard for their Manager against a well drilled passing and moving TNS outfit, at 2 nil the tie is not dead of course but another very difficult task awaits Harrison and whatever side he decides to play in the return at the Airfield, the Manager has already stated that losing and even going out of the competition would not be a disaster in the bigger picture, performances and attitudes of players seem to be more what the Manager is looking for in this competition as the Welsh Premier League is what matters most to all at the Airfield.
The New Saints:
Harrison. Holmes. Giglio. Rawlinson. Hogan. Ruscoe (Darlington 46`). Jones (Sharp 65`). Wood. Berkeley(Partridge 79`). Seargant. Williams
Airbus UK Broughton:
Hawthorne. Povey. Feliciello. Allen(Meacock 60`). Clowes(Edwards 36`). Cook. McManus. Clarke. Gannon(Hamilton 51`). Rushton. Smith
Subs Not Used: Andrew Thomas, Ashley Williams