Airbus UK Broughton FC vs Carmarthen Town AFC, Welsh Premier League, 22/8/15, Hollingsworth Group Stadium, Match 7
This weekend was the weekend in which the Welsh Premier League kicked off, and my adventure around all of the grounds in the Welsh Premier League began. The league kicked off on the Friday night with Rhyl holding Bangor City to a 1-1 draw. Today saw me heading back to the ground where the idea for this adventure first began, as I have mentioned before, my desire to watch a match at every Welsh Premier League ground stems from a Facebook comment from my dad, and it had been on a photo of the Hollingsworth Group Stadium.
The Hollingsworth Group Stadium, previously known as the Airfield for very obvious reasons, sits on the edge of Hawarden Airport, where Airbus UK is based. As the nickname “the Wingmakers” suggests, the nearby factory is where the wings for Airbus planes are built and then flown from the airport on Beluga planes to France. Airbus UK Broughton have gone through a number of name changes to represent the company based at the nearby factory complex. The Hollingsworth Group Stadium is famous for having retractable floodlights due to the nearby airfield. The ground has gone through a number of changes to bring it up to Welsh Premier League standard, and the ground now features an impressive 3g surface, which allows for the pitch to be used throughout the year, and provides an extra income for the club as they are able to rent it out.
The Hollingsworth Group Stadium is a small, tidy stadium. Whilst it would be possible to watch the match from outside, as the ground is pretty open and surrounded by fencing which can be easily seen through, I decided to head through the small turnstile and into the ground. Once I had parted with the £7 entry fee, and the £2 for a programme, I decided to take a walk around the ground, and headed down towards the “Runway End”, my walk took me past the small Main Stand, from which I would watch the match, the main stand does have pillars which obstruct your view, but with a ground like this there is no point complaining as it is just as easy to move and sit somewhere else. The “Runway End” compromises a small grassy hill from which you can watch planes take off and land at the Hawarden Airport, and a small seated stand which only covers half of the goal line. Next up was the Social Club side, which houses the refreshment hut, club shop, social club and the changing rooms, on this touchline also sit the dugouts, which are placed a distance apart from each other. Also housed on this side of the ground is a raised platform for anyone broadcasting the match. In front of the Social Club is a few rows of seats, in which the Press Box is incorporated. Down behind the other goal, the goal closest to the entrance, is a strip of hard standing, and not much else due to the constraints of the ground.
I’ve decided to give the Club Shop a separate paragraph, as it deserves one. If anyone has read “Every Silver Lining has a Cloud” by Nathan Lee Davies they will know how he describes it as a treasure trove, which it is. Unfortunately it was closed today, but if you visit when it is open, then make sure you head inside, as it really is worth the trip. Also if you get the chance, and you haven’t already, make sure you read “Every Silver Lining has a Cloud.” It really is a brilliant book.
Carmarthen Town were today’s visitors with the South Wales side making the trip up to North Wales for this match, the fixture calendar hadn’t been kind to them, providing them with a long journey for today’s match. Carmarthen were formed in 1950, making them the younger club in today’s match, as Airbus UK Broughton were formed in 1946. Both sides have enjoyed a rich and varied history, and I was looking forward to an interesting match.
Taking my seat in the Main Stand, I found a seat where the view was the least obstructed and waited for the two sides to emerge from the changing rooms. Once they did I was intrigued to see the Airbus manager, Andy Preece, stride into the middle of the pitch where he shook hands with the officials, I expected him to walk over to his dugout, but he continued over the pitch, hopped the perimeter fence, and took a seat behind me in the Main Stand where he was joined by someone in an Airbus tracksuit.
The game kicked off, and soon enough Andy Preece was to be using three of the words that he spent a lot of the game repeating, as this is a family blog, (My parents read this), I’m going to let you lot guess which three words were his favourites, they rhyme with “Duck”, “Punt” and “Knit”. No prizes.
Two minutes in and Airbus found themselves a goal up, Carmarthen gave away a free kick following a poor challenge, about 35 yards out, and pretty much in the centre of the pitch. Matty McGinn placed the ball down, and struck it sweetly past the keeper.
Airbus found themselves playing some nice football, with it building from the back, but they let themselves down in the final third, as time and time again, and much to Andy Preece’s annoyance, they squandered chances, players either tried to be too clever, or just messed up simple passes to players in better positions. Carmarthen on the other hand seemed to be struggling to get into the game, and were struggling to string anything together.
Ryan Wade had a brilliant chance to make it 2-0, as he hit a speculative volley from around 45 yards out, but his shot hit the top of the crossbar and bounced to safety, much to the Carmarthen keeper’s relief.
Carmarthen pulled themselves back into the game in the 26th minute, as Mark Jones nodded the ball home at the near post, following a good cross from a corner. Andy Preece and his colleague (?) felt that there had been a bit of pushing in the box, but in all honesty Airbus should have done better with their marking.
Airbus put themselves back in to the lead in the 33rd minute as Tony Gray slotted the ball past the keeper and into the back of the Carmarthen net, with a goal that was well deserved.
A minute later, Airbus made it 3-1 as Ryan Wade netted the goal that his play deserved. The Carmarthen keeper had made a hash of a clearance, his kicking was poor for most of the game, and the ball fell nicely for Wade who netted from outside of the area.
It was 4-1 in the 39th minute, as Andy Jones, found himself clear in the box, and slotted the ball past the Carmarthen keeper. I feel the Carmarthen defence should have dealt with the ball better, but the best teams take their chances and that is exactly what Airbus did.
Two minutes before half time, Airbus made it 5-1, as Tony Gray netted his second of the game, following good attacking play down the right wing, the ball was whipped into the box, and Gray finished the move off, by putting the ball past the keeper.
It was at the fifth goal that Andy Preece remarked that his side needed to be more careful, as from past experience he commented that he had been 4-0 up at half time, to then concede 3 goals, and have to hang on to the result. It was interesting to be able to sit as close to a manager and to hear their thoughts on the football.
Half time: Airbus UK Broughton 5-1 Carmarthen Town (McGinn 6, Gray 37 & 45, Wade 38, Jones 43 – Jones 30)
The half time whistle blew, and as customary I took a walk around the ground to kill the time. Nearing the “Runway End”, I decided to walk up the grass bank and try my hand at plane spotting. It was here that I was lucky enough to spot an Airbus A300-600t (Thanks Wikipedia) or as I knew it, a Beluga. The purpose of this plane is to move oversized cargo, such as the wings manufactured at the Airbus UK factory, and they really are a sight to behold. As you can guess from the name, they resemble a Beluga Whale, with the cockpit sat beneath a large bulge which holds the cargo. It was at this point that I noticed the time was 3.30pm, and I was faced with a difficult decision, did I head back to the Main Stand for the start of the second half? Or did I stay and watch the Beluga take off? I opted to stay and watch the Beluga take off, and marvelled at how such a massive plane could ever find the speed to take off.
Luckily for me the second half kicked off late, with the game finally restarting at around 3.37pm, and I took my seat in the Main Stand again. Andy Preece also took a seat in the Main Stand.
Whilst the first half had six goals, the only thing the second half had was five substitutions and an interesting exchange between Andy Preece and the linesman.
Carmarthen made the first of the changes as they bought on Dwayne Bailey for Ceri Morgan at half time. Airbus then followed this on the 70th minute as Chris Budrys swapped with Ricky Evans. On the 77th minute Airbus made their final two subs, with Wayne Riley and Ryan Wade making way for Ryan Fraughan and James Murphy. Finally on the 79th minute Luke Cummings and Jordan Knott swapped places for Carmarthen.
There were to be no more goals, but as I have mentioned there was an interesting exchange between Andy Preece and the linesman. The man sat with Preece had shouted to one of the Airbus players, but the linesman felt that it had been Preece, and that Preece was coaching from the stands, Preece responded angrily remarking to the linesman that he felt the linesman had been waiting for a chance to have a go at him.
Full Time: Airbus UK Broughton 5-1 Carmarthen Town (McGinn 6, Gray 37 & 45, Wade 38, Jones 43 – Jones 30)
Once the final whistle blew, I wasted no time getting back to my car, and heading home, as Wrexham were at home, and I wanted to get back before they all started heading back to their cars, as where I live in Rhosddu is a prime parking area for Wrexham fans. I left the Hollingsworth Group Stadium at about 16.25, and found myself driving past my house at 16.42. Four laps of the block later, and at 16.55 I finally managed to get a parking space. Whilst I love football, I dislike living near a football ground!
The Hollingsworth Group Stadium is a brilliant stadium, and I feel I picked a great game for my first game of the Welsh Premier League in the 15/16 season. Hopefully we will see a more competitive league at the top, as I hope someone will challenge TNS’ dominance in the league. Whether anyone will is anybody’s guess.
Cost: £10 (£7 entry, £2 programme and £1 can of Diet Coke)
Hat tricks seen so far: 2