Airbus UK Broughton FC began 2012 and life after Craig Harrison with a 2-1 defeat at home to Bala Town. On a cold, crispy sunny day at the Airfield this game represented the Wingmakers last chance to push for a 'top 6' spot before the league split under caretaker management duo Gareth Owen & Andy Thomas. To increase the pressure the game was shown live on TV by S4C's Sgorio, with the Wingmakers never having won a live TV game before. The visitors lined-up with ex-Wrexham & Wales international Mark Jones pulling the strings in midfield, and former Wingmaker Rees Darlington at left-back.
The Wingmakers made an enterprising start in the early stages but the game soon became slightly congested in midfield. The first chances fell to Bala as Lee Hunt sliced wide and then hit a tame shot straight at Niki-Lee Bulmer in the Airbus goal. The Wingmakers first chance saw Glenn Rule drive wide on nine minutes.
As the game reached the quarter of an hour mark both sides scrapped away with Tommy Holmes heading over for Airbus following the breakdown of a corner. The away side began to pass the ball around well but saw a goal on 26 minutes chalked off for a foul on Bulmer. Both teams went forward with confidence but without really creating anything of note.
There was a long stoppage which disrupted the game approaching half-time, for a nasty injury to the ribs sustained by Bala's Mark Connolly. The influential midfielder would leave the ground in an ambulance at the interval with both clubs wishing him a speedy recovery. Just before the break Mark Jones tried a trademark long-range strike but was well off target before curling another attempt straight at Bulmer.
A 0-0 scoreline was a fair reflection of the game at the break with neither team quite doing enough to stamp their authority on the match. Bala's Connolly was replaced by Stephen Brown in the first change of the game but unfortunately Brown's afternoon would not last long either. Within minutes of the resumption he too had to leave the field having sustained a bad ankle injury. He was replaced with Steff Edwards on 51 minutes.
A shot towards the near post from Ian Sheridan was held in the Bala goal by Terry McCormick in 54 minutes. A spell of good defending from the visitors was all that prevented the Wingmakers from taking a lead early in the second-half as the game opened up and became end-to-end. However, the Wingmakers were to be victims of misfortune.
Aproaching the hour mark of the game a penalty was awarded to Bala for an alleged trip by Mark Allen on Lee Hunt. There appeared to be minimal, if any, contact at all but the prolific forward dusted himself down to take the spot-kick. Hunt smashed the ball down the centre, clipping the bar on its way in to give Bulmer little chance and make it 1-0 to Bala.
Almost immediately the Wingmakers tried to hit back with a great run from Adam Worton setting-up Ian Sheridan to turn and shoot on the edge of the 6-yard box, only to see his shot deflected wide. On 64 minutes Airbus made their first change as Josh Griffiths came on in place of Eddie Hope. With over 20 minutes to go the Wingmakers were just lacking a little cutting edge in the final third.
Unfortunately hopes of a top-six finish were put beyond doubt with just over quarter of an hour to go when an apparent trip by Danny Taylor on the edge of the area saw the referee award Bala a free-kick. Mark Jones stepped up to curl an effort over the wall and under the bar which nestled in the back of the Wingmakers net to make it 2-0 to Bala.
Wingmakers skipper Glenn Rule created an opening but fired wide as he urged his side to push forward. Airbus made another change when Gavin Cadwallader replaced Mark Allen with the tall centre-half pushed up front to lend more height and physical presence to the attack. However Bala looked assert their superiority with a shot from Chris Mason requiring a smart low save from Bulmer in response.
Despite other results going the Wingmakers way, they just could not take advantage as Bala kept them out. Ian Sheridan reached the byline to cross for Gavin Cadwallader but he could only find McCormick at his near post. The visitors then made their final change with Ben Collins arriving in place of Chris Mason with 10 minutes to go.
Josh Griffiths saw an attmept go wide before playing his part in a neatly worked goal for Airbus with just a couple of minutes of normal time to spare. A neat one-two with Mike Hayes heading into the penalty area saw Hayes finish by firing a low shot into the far corner. The goal pulled the game back to 2-1 but it would turn out to be too little to late.
Ian Sheridan picked up a booking shortly after for a late challenge as the board went up for stoppage-time. There was some surprise that after a few lengthy disruptions and a number of substitutions that only four minutes were added on. The Wingmakers used that time to pile on the pressure, Rule firing a shot over but Bala again defended and broke well, striking the post late on.
The game finished 2-1 to a Bala team worthy of their top-six place as the Wingmakers just fell short. The result is disappointing but in the circumstances understandable as the TV hoodoo continues. The club will now look to move on, with a break of a few weeks to sort out the managerial situation ahead of the rest of the campaign. There is plenty left to play for with League Cup and Welsh Cup fixtures also just around the corner.
Airbus - 1: Niki-Lee Bulmer 2: Danny Taylor 3: Adam Worton 4: Mark Allen (G.Cadwallader) 5: Tommy Holmes 6: Glenn Rule (c) 7: Ryan Edwards 8: Mark Cadwallader 9: Ian Sheridan 10: Mike Hayes 11: Eddie Hope (Griffiths)
Subs - 12: Gavin Cadwallader 14: Josh Griffiths 15: Josh Parry 16: Shaun McCartney 17: Gareth Owen
Bala - Terry McCormick 2: John Irving 3: Rees Darlington 4: Stuart Jones 5: Mike Byron 6: Conall Murtagh 7: Mark Connolly (Brown) (S.Edwards) 8: Mark Jones (c) 9: Lee Hunt 10: Chris Mason (Collins) 11: Ross Jeffries
Subs - 12: Stephen Brown 14: Steff Edwards 15: Ben Collins 16: Danny Williams 17: Peter Doran 18: Dan Lloyd
By Rory Sheehan