Airbus UK Broughton FC suffered a late setback in their quest to secure a European play-off place when struggling Bala Town snatched a late equaliser at the Airfield. It was always going to be a tough night for the Wingmakers with the squad missing many senior players and others having to play out of position. Josh Parry was also handed his full debut for the club while a quartet of teenagers occupied the subs' bench.
Given what was at stake for both teams it is no surprise that the game got off to an enthusiastic start. Within 5 minutes Mark Connolly had curled a free-kick over the bar for the visitors before John Irving tested Niki-Lee Bulmer in the Airbus goal. The game took 10 minutes to settle down and when it did the Wingmakers took the advantage.
A poor Bala clearance deep in their own half gave Ian Sheridan the opportunity to run at the defence. He raced down the left and waited for goalkeeper Terry McCormick to commit himself before lofting the ball over him into the far corner of the net on 11 minutes. It was a great goal to put Airbus 1-0 up and was the catalyst for the game springing into life.
Immediately after the Wingmakers had taken the lead Bulmer had to turn a shot from Mike Hayes around the post. A minute later Sheridan was running at the Bala defence again before unleashing another strike at goal which McCormick managed to palm away. The Bala defence cleared their lines before any Airbus attacker could capitalise on the loose ball.
On 16 minutes Phil Clarke was booked for a strong challenge as Bala enjoyed a spell of pressure. On the edge of the Wingmakers area Mark Allen made two terrific block tackles to deny Mark Connolly a shot at goal before Mike Hayes drove a shot narrowly wide. At the other end Nick Rushton beat the offside trap wide on the right and fired in a shot which clipped the outside of the near post on 26 minutes with the goalkeeper beaten.
After 38 minutes the visitors were forced into an early change with Ross Jeffries being replaced by Ryan Marriott. The game quietened down a little in the lead up to half-time. Ex-Wales international Mark Jones saw a snap-shot go close for Bala Town while Danny Desormeaux fired narrowly over with his back to goal for the Wingmakers following a corner.
Just before the break Mark Connolly dragged a shot just wide of the left-post before a Steve Morrison shot was the last action of the half. It remained 1-0 to the Wingmakers at the break which was just about fair on the balance of play.
Both sides enjoyed spells of possession after the interval without creating too many clear-cut opportunities in front of goal. A free-kick swung into the box from the right gave Chris Mason a chance with a header but his effort went over the bar. On 58 minutes Bala's Mark Jones was booked for a foul and the Wingmakers made their first change with Rhys Nash coming on in place of Josh Parry.
A minute later the Wingmakers made another substitution with Danny Desormeaux having to go off and be replaced by Danny Calvert. There followed a gritty period in the game with the only sight of goal being a speculative effort off-target by Paul McManus.
The best chance came on 66 minutes when from near the byline Sheridan crossed into the 6-yard box for Nash. The 17 year-old seemed set to score from a tap-in but for a last-ditch clearance off the line by a covering Bala defender.
Towards the last 20 minutes a young Wingmakers team dropped deeper as Bala poured forward in search of an equaliser. With 20 minutes to go they were given a boost when the referee spotted an infringement in the area from a Wingmakers defender and awarded them a penalty. Chris Mason stepped up to fire a powerful low shot at goal but Bulmer guessed right - diving to his right and making a brilliant save to preserve the Wingmakers lead.
Bala continued to press forward but fortunately the Wingmakers defence stayed strong. Bulmer, Ryan Edwards and Richie Dorman (deputising out-of-position at centre-half) were excellent in reducing the number of opportunities for the visitors. With just over 5 minutes to go the Wingmakers became younger still when Paul McManus was replaced by teenager Asa Hamilton.
With three minutes to go Eddie Hope struck a free-kick wide for the Wingmakers who looked to have weathered the pressure. With 2 minutes to go Bala made their last change of the evening as Josh Macauley came on in place of Chris Mason. Within seconds the Wingmakers resistance broke and Bala had their equaliser.
A deep cross from nowhere into the penalty area was met with a powerful diving header from Mark Connolly who gave Bulmer no chance - putting Bala back on level terms. To concede the equaliser so late on was a real blow to the Wingmakers. There was still time for one last chance in injury-time when Ian Sheridan had a sight of goal but his shot was deflected over and that was that.
Overall a draw was a fair result for both sides but neither will be satisfied with a point apiece with so much to play for at this stage of the season. It was a good, entertaining game in which many young Wingmakers had to step up to take responsibility and did so well. A place in the play-offs to qualify for Europe is still achievable for the Wingmakers but Aberystwyth Town now hold the advanatage with only a few games to go.
Airbus - 1: Niki-Lee Bulmer 2: Ryan Edwards 3: Phil Clarke 4: Richie Dorman 5: Mark allen (c) 6: Eddie Hope 7: Nick Rushton 8: Danny Desormeaux (Calvert) 9: Ian Sheridan 10: Paul McManus (Hamilton) 11: Josh Parry (Nash)
Subs - 12: Chris Doran 14: Danny Calvert 15: James Davies 16: Asa Hamilton 17: Rhys Nash
Bala - 1: Terry McCormick 2: John Irving 3: Owain Roerts 4: Danny Williams (c) 5: Shaun Kelly 6: Ross Jeffries (Marriott) 7: Mark Connolly 8: Mark Jones 9: Chris Mason (Macauley) 10: Mike Hayes 11: Steve Morrison
Subs - 12: Ryan Marriott 14: Josh Macauley 15: Mark Powell
By Rory Sheehan