Airbus UK Broughton FC were held to a 2-2 draw by Port Talbot Town in a controversial clash on a wet Bank Holiday Monday at the Airfield. The visitors are in the chase for a European play-off spot currently held by the Wingmakers who were looking to bounce back after a couple of disappointing defeats. There was a warm welcome to former Wrexham and Airbus goalkeeper Kristian Rogers in what might be the Wingmakers last home game of the 2011-12 season, depending on the play-off situation.
There was an even start to the game with neither side getting the better of the other. On 6 minutes Mark Cadwallader fed Mark Danks in the penalty area but his shot was wide of the near-post. Jon Bathurst then forced a close-range save from Rogers before the Wingmakers had a credible penalty appeal for a hand-ball turned down on 10 minutes.
On 13 minutes a Glenn Rule corner was headed home at the far post by Mark Cadwallader to give the Wingmakers a 1-0 lead. Five minutes later Port Talbot defender James Bloom blocked a fierce strike from Gavin Cadwallader as Airbus really began to take hold of the game.
The Wingmakers doubled their lead on 19 minutes when a cross was deflected into the path of Glenn Rule outside of the area. The Airbus skipper drilled a powerful low shot into the bottom far corner of the net to make it 2-0 and give the Wingmakers a comfortable advantage. It was not until 25 minutes that Port Talbot had their first real glimpse of goal when they had a header from a corner cleared off the line.
This was a much-improved Airbus performance on recent weeks with the Wingmakers looking likely to score with every attack in the first half an hour. On 33 minutes a deft flick from Nev Thompson on the edge of the six-yard box rolled just the wrong side of the far-post. The Wingmakers looked to be fully in control of the game but were given a jolt with just over five minutes to go to half-time.
A Port Talbot corner appeared to have been dealt with cleanly by the Airbus defence - but the referee adjudged Tommy Holmes to have upended Paul Cochlin on the edge of the six-yard box and awarded a penalty. Tosh was shown the yellow card before Martin Rose stepped up to take the spot-kick. He sent goalkeeper Andy Mulliner the wrong way with a low shot and pulled Port Talbot back into the game at 2-1.
Wingmakers Director of Football Andy Preece was sent from the dug-out for the strength of his protests following the controversial incident which had handed Port Talbot a lifeline. A minute before the break Paul Keddle struck the far-post with a long-range drive for the visitors. The last action of the half saw the away side's Paul Brooks booked for a shove on Glenn Rule.
The Wingmakers went into the interval deserving of their lead but feeling hard done by to have had it reduced by what appeared to be a soft penalty decision against them. Understandably Port Talbot lifted their game following the resumption and began to test the Wingmakers more all over the pitch since their goal. There were fewer opportunities at either end but both teams were playing well.
Unfortunately the Wingmakers received a further setback just past the hour-mark when Glenn Rule picked up a booking for an alleged foul. A minute later the Wingmakers captain was booked again - this time seemingly for dissent - followed by the red card being shown, reducing Airbus down to 10 men. The Wingmakers then introduced Eddie Hope in place of Ryan Edwards before Andy Mulliner had to turn away a Sasha Walters free-kick.
As a spectacle the game lost its rhythm as by now the officials had become the focal point. To their credit both teams kept going for the win and the Wingmakers nearly increased their lead again when Nev Thompson rounded Rogers in the penalty area - only to see his goalbound shot cleared off the line at the near post by Lee John. On 67 minutes the Wingmakers made their next change when Thompson was replaced with Adam Worton.
Mark Cadwallader had a shot deflected wide following a corner and from the next set-piece only a goalmouth scramble prevented Airbus from extending their lead further. Sasha Walters curled another free-kick over the bar for Port Talbot who were begininng to make the most of their numerical advantage - and put pressure on the Wingmakers. Mulliner had to make a finger-tip save from a curling Walters shot as the away side crept closer.
Port Talbot made a double substitution with just under quarter of an hour to go as Chris Hartland and Richard Greaves replaced Gareth Phillips and Dylan Blain respectively. This proved to be an inspired change as within a minute - and with his first touch of the game - Greaves was given a free-header in the area from a corner and duly brought Port Talbot back level at 2-2.
With nine minutes to go Mark Danks received a yellow card for a late challenge and was immediately replaced with Lee Jones as the Wingmakers made their final change. Dave Brooks went narrowly wide with a shot for Port Talbot with five minutes to go and Wingmakers goalkeeper Andy Mulliner was booked for time-wasting with just a minute remaining. After a lengthy period of stoppage-time the Wingmakers held-out for the point.
This was a slightly disappointing result for the Wingmakers in light of how well they had played with 11 men and it is hard to escape - rightly or wrongly - that the decisions of the officials had a real effect on the game. Port Talbot were unable to take full advantage of these key decisions but showed why they are still in the hunt for that European play-off spot. For now though, it is the Wingmakers place to lose and they could have secured it by the end of the week.
Airbus - 1: Andy Mulliner 2: Danny Taylor 3: Josh Roberts 4: Tommy Holmes 5: Gavin Cadwallader 6: Glenn Rule (c) 7: Ryan Edwards (Hope) 8: Mark Cadwallader 9: Nev Thompson (Worton) 10: Mark Danks (L.Jones) 11: Jonathan Bathurst
Subs - 12: Shaun McCartney 14: Lee Jones 15: Eddie Hope 16: Adam Worton
Port Talbot - 1: Kristian Rogers 2: Nicky Holland 3: Paul Keddle 4: Gareth Phillips (Hartland) 5: James Bloom 6: Paul Cochlin 7: Lee John 8: Dylan Blain (Greaves) 9: Martin Rose 10: Sasha Walters 11: Dave Brooks
Subs - 12: Chris Hartland 14: Richard Greaves 15: Leigh De-Vulgt 21: David Burnett.
By Rory Sheehan