Airbus UK Broughton were denied a place in the Top 6 of the Welsh Premier for the second-half of the season following a gutsy fightback by Bala Town. The Wingmakers had been looking for a win that would have given them a chance of making the cut for when the league splits - and for 70 minutes it seemed that they would get it. The visitors - missing Welsh international midfielder Mark Jones - bounced back well from a humiliating Welsh Cup defeat the week before.
Conditions at the Airfield were very difficult with driving rain and strong swirling wind making it difficult for both sides to get the ball down and play. Neither team could play their best football but the Wingmakers wre quickest to adapt as Richard Droman showed with an early burst forward. On 3 minutes Tom McCready curled a free-kick at goal forcing Terry McCormick into a save and his defence to hurriedly clear.
As the game developed in scrappy fashion Ian Sheridan won possession on the right-hand side and from a tight angle struck the post with Bala fortunate to clear before Eddie Hope picked up the rebound. On 23 minutes another scramble in the Bala area saw Tom McCready disposessed as the away side struggled to get out of their own half.
On 28 minutes Bala managed a shot at goal when Steven Lewis's effort became a comfortable save for Kristian Rogers. Shaun Kelly also saw an attempt go wide for the visitors. A minute later Matty Woodward carried the ball out of defence for Airbus but dragged his shot wide of the far post.
There was come controversy just past the half hour mark when - with Wingmakers defender Woodward down injured - Bala's Chris Mason intercepted an Airbus clearance meant to allow Woodward physio treatment, and went on to shoot over the top corner. The incident caused tempers to fray a little on both sides and it showed. This - along with a rain-slicked surface - encouraged a number of 50/50 sliding tackles. The injured Woodward was eventually replaced with Gio Feliciello on 35 minutes.
The Wingmakers lookd the likelier team to score but could not find the opening. Neat footwork by Danny Desormeaux on the edge of the 6-yard box committed McCormick but his effort was cleared by a covering Bala defender. While not creating too much the away side were certainly able to scrap - influenced by skipper and ex-Wrexham midfielder Danny Williams. This attribute would serve them well in the second-half as it remained 0-0 at the break.
Immediately after the interval the Wingmakers showed they meant business. Great work in the area from Sheridan enabled a shot at goal but it was cleared off the line before Tom McCready's follow-up was deflected over. Airbus would not have to wait long however before they converted the chance they had been looking for.
On 51 minutes Sheridan and McCready combined again - this time to give the Wingmakers the lead. Sheridan's cross into the 6-yard box was met by McCready who kept his composure to fire low past McCormick to make it 1-0. The goal was no less than the Wingmakers deserved as they converted their dominance in possession into an advantage.
Four minutes after the goal a late challenge by Bala's Steve Morrison saw him pick up a yellow card. Airbus continued to dominate and nearly added another when Sheridan won the ball on the byline and fed Desormeaux in the area who saw his shot palmed to safety by McCormick. On 63 minutes Gio Feliciello also received a yellow card for a late tackle.
After 67 minutes Bala made a substitution that would help turn the game in their favour as Ryan Marriott replaced Steven Lewis. Before he entered the action Marriott did give fans on the Pavilion side of the ground a laugh when he looked set to go on with his shirt on the wrong way round - but this was to be as good as it got for Airbus as the game entered the last 20 minutes.
Following a tame shot from Mason easily stopped by Rogers it did not look as if Bala would find a way back into the game. However, the Wingmakers had not taken their chances and were still vulnerable while only 1-0 up. This was punished when slack defending in the area allowed Mike Hayes time to set himself up to shoot low through Rogers and equalise for 1-1 on 72 minutes.
Despite the goal being somewhat against the run of play it was a real blow to the Wingmakers and gave Bala the belief that they could get something out of the game. The match developed into an end-to-end affair as both teams went for the win. The visitors were next to go closest when Mason found himself in on goal but put his shot the wrong side of the near post.
A minute later with 10 minutes to go the game was turned on its head. An innocuous-looking shot looked to be safely gathered by Airbus goalkeeper Kristian Rogers but the custodian spilled the ball and allowed Chris Mason to pounce from just yards out and fire Bala into a 2-1 lead. Rogers looked crestfallen as the Wingmakers hopes of securing a place in the top-half of the table slipped away fast.
Almost immediately Craig Harrison made a double substitution as Nick Rushton and Paul McManus arrived in place of Richard Dorman and John Leah in an attempt to increase the Wingmakers attacking options. The Wingmakers put the visitors under pressure as the clock ticked on. With minutes to go McManus cut inside from the right only to see his shot find the side netting. As injury-time approached Bala introduced Mark Powell in place of Mason with Powell's most significant contribution being booked for time-wasting a minute later.
Into stoppage-time Rogers was forced into a save by Hayes and Eddie Hope saw a cross from the left spilled by McCormick. In spite of their late pressure Airbus could not find a way back. There was only time left for Bala to replace Mike Hayes with Jason Wood and Ian Sheridan to receive a booking.
The manner of the defeat which denied the Wingmakers a place in the Top 6 was disappointing but credit should go to Colin Caton's Bala side who refused to give up and took their chances. The club has still come a long way this season and everyone can be proud of their efforts. One slight consolation is that the Wingmakers will now meet Bala again before the end of the season - an opportunity to get revenge for this result.
Airbus - 1: Kristian Rogers 2: Matthew Woodward (Feliciello) 3: Ryan Edwards 4: Gavin Cadwallader 5: Mark Allen (c) 6: John Leah (McManus) 7: Richard Dorman (Rushton) 8: Danny Desormeaux 9: Ian Sheridan 10: Tom McCready 11: Eddie Hope
Subs - 12: Paul McManus 14: Giovanni Feliciello 15: Leon Clowes 16: Nick Rushton 17: James Davies
Bala - 1: Terry McCormick 2: John Irving 3: Steve Fisher 4: Danny Jellicoe 5: Shaun Kelly 6: Ross Jeffries 7: Steve Morrison 8: Mike Hayes (Wood) 9: Chris Mason (Powell) 10: Steven Lewis (Marriott) 11: Danny Williams
Subs - 12: Mark Powell 14: Ryan Marriott 15: Jason Wood 16: Sion Dolben Hughes
By Rory Sheehan