Airport fly into cup semi-final
3:25pm Thursday 27th February 2014 in Sport
CARDIFF AIRPORT 2
TRAVELLING to Llanharan for this South Wales Intermediate Cup quarter-final clash, Cardiff Airport Football Club were greeted with possibly the worst football pitch imaginable which, after two referee’s inspections, was deemed playable.
The home side settled and adapted to the conditions better and, for the first ten minutes, opened up the Airport defence, but the conditions, some last-ditch blocks from Ricky Perry , Cael Penberthy and two pieces of magical defending from Jon Paget kept them at bay.
Slowly, but surely, playing into the fierce wind, the Airport midfield of Liam Davies, Aaron Malpas and Gareth Bush took control, but it was a change of formation that saw their first chance and opening goal. When another Llanharan attack was thwarted, the ball was played through the mud to Liam Davies, who, driving from the halfway line in the centre of the park, hit a beautiful 25-yard drive which flew into the bottom corner.
This goal lifted the Airport and, after good work between strikers Casey Davies and Michael Hall, with the latter swinging in a dangerous cross, Nicky Gannon was unlucky not to add a second.
Llanharan, however, were still dangerous and Airport goalkeeper Kenny Vaughan produced two fine saves to ensure his side held a half-time lead.
Airport replaced Jamie Harris due to illness and Jody Buckler was introduced, with JP switching flanks to try and cope with the speedy left winger. With the wind at their backs, Airport started well but the pitch spoilt two clear runs by Davies.
Although still well in the game, Llanharan wasted numerous chances.
Airport introduced Nigel Batt for the exhausted Davies, who had worked tirelessly up front with little reward, while Gareth Bush and Liam Davies maintained their workrate, often treading water and sticking in the mud but never giving up the cause.
Piling the pressure on a tiring Airport defence, Llanharan equalised on 75 minutes when the ball was poked home from close range despite the best efforts of Vaughan and J P. With Airport struggling and Malpas running on empty, Llanharan smelt blood and Vaughan defied his years with three smart saves.
Gannon was replaced by Dai Williams and, with the game heading for extra-time, there was a twist in the tail. After Williams won a free kick on halfway, Buckler hit the perfect ball towards the penalty spot and, with the Llanharan defence all missing the jump, Malpas chested down and volleyed home from ten yards.
Although the referee decided to play a further three minutes of injury time, Llanharan had little left and Airport now play Bluebirds, of Merthyr, in the semi-final on March 29 at a neutral venue.
Airport would like to thank the travelling supporters and Llanharan for their hospitality.