Welsh Cup woe for Afan Lido

Mark Pitman reports from Afan Lido as Airbus UK Broughton progress into the quarter-finals of the Welsh Cup in a dramatic cup tie.

New Airbus UK Broughton manager Andy Preece maintained his perfect record since taking charge of the Wingmakers with this Welsh Cup victory at Afan Lido in the only all-Welsh Premier League tie of the fourth round. Airbus UK defeated an experimental Wrexham side under the guidance of former boss Craig Harrison to reach this stage of the competition and arrived at the Marston’s Stadium high in confidence following a convincing win over Bala Town in the League Cup. Afan Lido were equally as confident however, having defeated local rivals Port Talbot Town in the previous round, but with £5,000 prize money at stake for the winners there was some concern amongst the home fans when the teams were announced 45 minutes before kick-off.

Goalkeeper Chris Curtis has been in fine form for Afan Lido this season. A talented keeper at Welsh League level, Curtis made the step-up in the summer following Lido’s promotion, and the league has been subjected to his mouth ever since. Curtis would be named on the bench for the visit of Airbus UK however as manager Andy Dyer brought in retired veteran Tony Pennock. The former Farnborough and Yeovil Town keeper is currently Head of Youth Development at Swansea City and a few years ago briefly managed Port Talbot Town in the Welsh Premier League. The brother of Lido assistant manager Ray, the experienced keeper went into the match well-short of match practice, but he and his team would have a long afternoon ahead.

Afan Lido 2-2 Airbus UK Broughton (Airbus UK win 5-4 on penalties) – Welsh Cup 4th round – Saturday 28th January 2012
In front of a typically small crowd Afan Lido took an early lead after 12 minutes when referee Kevin Morgan awarded the home side a penalty. Attacking the end away from the clubhouse, striker Mark Jones had previously despatched a spot-kick at that end of the ground over the fence, gardens and houses in the street adjacent to the ground in the victory over Newtown a few weeks before. Andy Hill had scored from the penalty spot against Bala Town in the clubs last league fixture and again made no mistake as he put his side ahead. The goal opened the game up as Airbus UK went in search of an equaliser and began to enjoy the better of the possession as Afan Lido struggled to supply their creative players with any suitable service.

With Leon Jeanne, Mark Jones and Carl Payne struggling to make an impression on the match against their physically stronger opponents, Tony Pennock became the busier of the two goalkeepers as the visitors responded to the continued barks of their new management team. On 25 minutes the scores were level as Mark Cadwallader headed home a fine corner with Pennock left to question the marking responsibilities of his defence while justifying his own decision to stay on his line despite the ball flashing across his six-yard box. Minutes later Pennock was again questioned as he rushed out of his area but failed to claim the ball and defender Kristian James was forced to make a crucial goal-line clearance to prevent his side slipping behind.

The animated bench of the visitors was then treated to a front row seat for a controversial moment that resulted in a mass brawl. Lido’s Daniel Thomas reacted to a stray boot from Airbus UK captain Glenn Rule and chaos ensued as referee Kevin Morgan whistled constantly but failed to prevent the resulting handbags that were traded. Morgan’s lecture to both was continually interrupted by Thomas and both players were eventually shown a yellow card for their part in the disruption. The incident added to the eventful match and there would be another twist as the half-time break approached.

On 41 minutes Airbus UK took the lead through Gavin Cadwallader as Pennock could only palm his save into the corner of the net from another set-piece. Questions have been asked over Lido’s ability to defend crosses on many occasions already this season and their impending Welsh Cup exit was now looking likely to be based on two more errors in judgement at the back. The goal would be last notable incident of an entertaining half as the frozen crowd made their way into the clubhouse in time to see Rhyl take the lead over Llanelli in the weekend’s live game that would also be eventually decided by a penalty shoot-out.

Afan Lido made changes during the second half and while Airbus UK goalkeeper Niki Lee-Bulmer became more involved in the game as the home side pushed for an equaliser. Airbus UK looked comfortable however but failed to test Pennock as much as they would have liked and also struggled to test the Lido defence from set-pieces and take advantage of their weakness. Influential defender Carl Evans was pushed upfront as the home side continued to search for an equaliser but it would not arrive until injury-time when substitute Liam Thomas scored the crucial goal that would take the game into extra-time.

As with most cup fixtures, extra-time came and went with little incident, although both sides could have prevented the match being decided by the lottery of penalties. The equaliser had lifted Afan Lido as much as it had deflated Airbus UK and as the additional thirty minutes neared completion the already small crowd appeared even smaller after two hours of football. Referee Morgan eventually brought the game to a close and the players mixed with the officials and management in the middle of the field to confirm who would have the responsibility of deciding the tie and booking their team a place in the quarter-final.

The inclusion of Tony Pennock had been the main talking point of the pre-match build-up and the veteran keeper would also be the topic of post-match discussion. Pennock saved the first spot-kick that he faced, but with the scores level after both sides had scored four from their first five penalties, Pennock stepped-up to start the knock-out process. His effort was saved, but he failed to match the heroics of his opposite number as he returned between the posts, as Airbus UK scored with their sixth spot-kick to book their place in the last eight of the Welsh Cup. Afan Lido, finalists five years before, were out.

Mark Pitman
Visit www.markpitman1.com for links to all blogs, news stories, features, reports and opinion as the big Welsh football news stories break. You can also follow Mark Pitman at www.facebook.com/1markpitman and www.twitter.com/markpitman1

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