A month after their final home league fixture Airbus UK Broughton returned to the Airfield for this European play-off quarter-final tie. The incentive to reach Europe was a huge one for the Wingmakers but also the visitors Aberystwyth Town in a game streamed live on S4C's Sgorio website. After avoiding relegation, due to Neath's demotion, the visitors found themselves unexpectedly in contention with a wealth of Football League experience in their side providing a real obstacle to Airbus.
On a damp, cold, windy day in Broughton there was a lively opening start to the game with neither side really settling. The first chance for Airbus fell to Mark Danks on 9 minutes but he sliced wide of the near post. The Wingmakers were beginning to get a grip of the game before play was held-up due to an injury sustained by Mark Cadwallader.
Andy Mulliner was forced into his first save of the match on 17 minutes when Geoff Kellaway tested him from outside of the area. Both teams struggled to carve out real openings in the first 20 minutes of the game. There was a half-chance for Aberystwyth on 23 minutes when Alex Samuel headed over the bar from a Kellaway cross.
A low Adam Worton shot was deflected wide on 25 minutes but the game had still yet to really burst into life. A long-range effort from Glenn Rule nearly provided that spark but it went narrowly wide of the target. At the other end Geoff Kellaway broke free of the Airbus defence but could only find Andy Mulliner with his low shot.
Mark Cadwallader flicked a header wide on 38 minutes of what had been a tight and even game. A minute later Ryan Edwards dug out a great cross for Nev Thompson but the striker could only guide his header wide. From a corner at the other end Aberystwyth's Alex Samuel also glanced a header wide as set-pieces looked the likeliest way of breaking the deadlock.
Just before half-time Craig Whitfield nearly found his way in on goal but a recovering defender knocked him out of his stride and his attempt went wide. An Andy Parkinson free-kick for 'Aber' was curled towards goal but one of his own team-mates found themselves in the way of his goal-bound shot. The referee called time on a generally uneventful first-half soon after.
Following the break the Wingmakers Danny Taylor was booked on 49 minutes for what looked like an even aerial challenge. The resulting free-kick was fired straight at Mulliner by Wyn Thomas. Mark Danks then saw a shot blocked as both sides still looked to take control of the game. There was the sense that whoever got the first goal would go on to win the game and unfortunately it fell to the visitors.
A scramble on the edge of the six-yard box following an Aberystwyth corner saw Wyn Thomas react quickest to hook the ball over Mulliner and give 'Aber' a 1-0 lead on 55 minutes. Just over five minutes later Mulliner had to make a near-post save from Samuel as Aberystwyth, unsurprisingly, were beginning to shade the action having got the advantage.
The game went a bit flat after the goal and Mark Cadwallader picked up a yellow card on 67 minutes as a sign of the Wingmakers frustration. Airbus were the first to make a change on 69 minutes with a double substitution as Mark Cadwallader and Craig Whitfield were replaced with Mike Hayes and Jon Bathurst respectively.
Aberystwyth goal-scorer Wyn Thomas was booked with quarter of an hour to go for a foul on Mike Hayes before the away sdie made their first change a few minutes later - James McCarten coming on to replace Liam James. With 10 minutes to go Tommy Holmes was also shown a yellow card for Airbus - seemingly for dissent.
On 82 minutes Mike Hayes blasted a shot over the bar as the Wingmakers hopes of qualifying for Europe were fading fast. With seven minutes to go Aberystwyth made another change as Alex Samuel was replaced by Krzysztof Nalborski. With four minutes to go the Wingmakers were unlucky not to be awarded a penalty after Sean Thornton appeared to handle the ball in the area but the officials waved play on.
Ultimately the Wingmakers were unable to create any more chances and 'Aber' were able to see the game out. It is Aberystwyth Town who will now get to extend their season in pursuit of European football. The Wingmakers will now look to rebuild at the end of a season of mixed fortunes. There is certainly plenty of hope for the future - as reflected by the half-time presentation of the Welsh Premier U-19 championship trophy to the Wingmakers title-winning Under-19's side.
Airbus - 1: Andy Mulliner 2: Danny Taylor 3: Adam Worton 4: Tommy Holmes 5: Gavin Cadwallader 6: Glenn Rule (c) 7: Ryan Edwards 8: Mark Cadwallader (Hayes) 9: Neville Thompson 10: Mark Danks 11: Craig Whitfield (Bathurst)
Subs - 12: Jon Bathurst 14: Danny Grannon 15: Josh Griffiths 16: Mike Hayes 17: Josh Roberts 18: Shaun McCartney 22: Lee Jones
Aberystwyth - 1: Stephen Cann 2: Liam James (McCarten) 3: Michael Howard 6: Wyn Thomas 5: Sion James 4: Andy Parkinson 11: Alex Samuel (Nalborski) 8: Sean Thornton (c) 9: Josh Macauley 10: Michael Walsh 7: Geoff Kellaway
Subs - 12: Krzysztof Nalborski 14: Rhydian Davies 15: James McCarten
By Rory Sheehan