Chris Budrys scores with a Header (c) Les Evans
Airbus (UK) Broughton secured a positive outcome on their debut European experience, in their Europa League first round first leg tie against experienced Latvian side Ventspils, with super sharp striker Chris Budrys the major influence at Wrexham’s Glyndwr University Racecourse ground, being on target with a late equaliser, after Simonas Paulius had provided the visitors with a early second half lead. (reports Robert Clement).
The match highlighted the commitment and dedication of Director of Football, Andy Preece, who had guided the Broughton based Wingmaker’s to an historic dream, having taking charge following the departure of Craig Harrison to The New Saints in January 2012.
It was Airbus who were put under early pressure, with them having their defensive qualities examined by Nigerian born Ahmed Abdultaofik, who forced goalkeeper James Coates into action to make an important save after five minutes.
Within two minutes of that threat, Airbus put the Ventspils back line under pressure, with a lengthy throw from full back Lewis Short finding Glenn Rule in space, but despite displaying attacking flair, he was only able to fire over the top of the goal frame from ten yards.
There was soon an additional option for the Flintshire outfit with the reward of a free kick, following a foul by Igor Tarasov on Budrys, Lee Owens flighted the ball into the packed goalmouth, only for Tarasov to apply a positive headed clearance.
The tempo was maintained with Airbus having the better of the scoring options, with firstly a Ryan Wade attempt flashing beyond the far post, and that was followed with a well struck shot from Wayne Riley, being palmed around the upright by goalkeeper Vitaliy Melnicenko.
Ventspils gradually managed to probe the Airbus defence, and it was Tornike Tarkhnishvili whose narrow angled attempt found the side-netting on the half hour. Five minutes later, Eduard Sukhanov blazed a full-blooded shot from outside the eighteen yard area which thundered back off the crossbar.
With the interval swiftly approaching, it was Budrys along with Steve Abbott who had on-target shots blocked by stout Venspils defending, before Riley blazed over the top.
I thought that the final twenty minutes would be our weakness, but it ends up being our strength; we came on so strong, and in the end we could have won the game
Despite having edged the opening period on possession and scoring opportunities, it was Ventspils who took the lead three minutes into the second half. Russian born Vadim Yanchuk was able to pick out the available Abdultaofik on the right wing, he then advanced swiftly forward to cut infield, and with a square pass into the feet of the unmarked Paulius, who then had the simple task of applying a low stuck shot into the Airbus net.
Following that away goal advantage, there was almost an immediate response from the Wingmakers, with a Riley volley being turned behind by Melnicenko after Budrys had nodded on a Short throw.
Two minutes later, Budrys was yellow carded by the Bulgarian official, being judged to have dived in the penalty area, after clearly being fouled by Anton Kurakin.
Ventspils gradually increased the momentum, and midway into the second half Airbus captain Ian Kearney made an important goalmouth clearance, following a Kurakin corner.
There was a second penalty appeal waved away when Melnicenko appeared to up-end Abbott, soon after there was ominous signs of improvement for the Wingmaker’s, as they found a fresh sense of belief having gained a free kick after Kearney had been upended by Yanchuk. It was then Ward who supplied an inch perfect free kick into the goal area, for Budrys to brilliantly head into the roof of the net.
We showed a lot of belief and dug deep; I’m so proud of the effort that the lads put in today
In the hard fought final ten minutes, it was Airbus who had ample possession, and applied pressure with a series of free kicks and corners, with the best chance of adding a second goal falling once again to Budrys, with his header being finger tipped around the post by the agile Melnicenko.
Airbus’ Director of Football, Andy Preece later spoke with Robert Clement in the Glyndwr Media Suite, responding to Chris Budrys having provided the Wingmaker’s with a positive lifeline, ahead of the second leg, against their Latvian west coast visitors in seven days.
“Yes, it’s great that we’re still in the game, even if we had gone down 1-0, I still think that we would have been in the tie. I felt that we could score against them, so at least we deserved a draw from the display, and it was an immense performance by the lads because like I said before the game, they’re in their season, where we are just trying to get fit and ready to play games”.
“I thought that the final twenty minutes would be our weakness, but it ends up being our strength; we came on so strong, and in the end we could have won the game”
With Preece back at the Racecouse, having made over fifty appearances during season 1990/91, he remarked about a series of decisions which went unnoticed.
“I thought there were stone wall penalties that we didn’t get, but with those opportunities being dismissed, it then provided us with added determination to get back into the game, and Chris Budrys got us that all important equaliser”.
“We came back after going behind with a set piece; I’ve a strong team and they’re good at set play at both ends of the field, and it’s something that we talked about, but it probably wasn’t the way that we possibly thought that we would get a goal, because Ventspils are very good at defending”.
“Obviously they got a bit tired as the game went on, and a great ball in from Nicky Ward and excellent determination by Chris who applied a quality header, so we were buzzing from there, and then for the last ten minutes we really were putting them under massive pressure, and we could have added a second goal”.
Worcestershire born Preece, was then asked if Bala’s success on Tuesday encouraged him, along with his players?
“I think that we were encouraged anyway, we worked so hard to get into the competition, what’s the point of getting into it if you’re not going to do it properly, and get through a round or two”.
“Obviously that certainly did help, because the lads are looking at that and thinking that Bala have done it, we can also do it, but we prepared to get through this leg and we’re still in the tie”.
He added, “Bala are in theirs and Prestatyn are also still in there; it’s not a bad group of results, and it shows that the league is getting stronger”.
“We were quite content with how it was going at half-time, 0-0 would have suited us going there, but probably the one time that we switched off, they scored in one of the ways that they looked to try and get in behind us, putting balls in beyond the full back’s and the wide players also, and for that one minute we lost our concentration”.
“You might get away with it in the Welsh Premier League a couple of times, but you don’t get away with it in Europe, and they punished us, but it could have been easy for us to lie down and die maybe, and lose two or three, but that doesn’t happen with this team, and they came back and got us back in the tie”.
“It has been mentioned that our second half performance was resilient; we have a belief and structure, and the lads know that if we keep going to the game plan, we’re good enough to get something out of this game, and that’s what we did”.
“We showed a lot of belief and dug deep; I’m so proud of the effort that the lads put in today, because there is no way we are match fit, but you would not have known it by the way we finished the game, so there’s been great determination and a lot of character about us”.
Preece then spoke about embarking on his debut match in Europe, at the 3,200 capacity Olimpiskais Stadion in Ventspils next week.
“We’re all really looking forward to it, they’re certainly aware that they’re going to be in a game. I don’t think that they will be full of confidence; there will be apprehension about it, which is great now we’ve got them thinking about it, and it was a credit that they changed the system”.
“They suddenly played a diamond shape in midfield, which we’ve never seen them do before; they had to change back in the second half to their normal system, and we caused them problems with both, so who knows what they’ll do, and although it’s 1-1 I think that we’ve got the initiative now”.
The former Blackpool striker, who also has ex Bloomfield Road central defender Andy Morrison as his assistant at Airbus, then responded to a career in management, after having been team-mates in 1995, with them back together on an amazing debut European campaign.
“You can’t plan for something like this, specially when you remind me of that part of my career where so much has happened since, but it’s a great road to have gone down, and management now is good to be in, and I’m delighted that this sort of occasions has come my way, having completed my first full season with the Wingmakers”.
“It’s been a fantastic ten months, to have finished second in the league; we couldn’t have dreamed about it and to be in this position I think that everybody has smiles on their faces, and they pinch themselves to believe that it’s happened at the club”.
“It’s down to a lot of hard work and preparation, and people doing a job that they know they can do. Andy Morrison and I have come in, along with an excellent bunch of lads and the club has supported us, and ultimately we produced it at the end of the season, and we just want it to continue”.
Airbus: James Coates, Lee Owens, Lewis Short, Michael Pearson, Ian Kearney (capt), Tom Field (Nicky Ward 71st min), Wayne Riley, Glenn Rule, Chris Budrys, Ryan Wade (Steve Jones 57th min), Steve Abbott (Sam Hart 75th min).
Unused substitutes: Phil Bolland, Michael Roddy, Jordan Johnson, Chris Doran.
Ventspils: Vitaliy Melnicenko, Kaspars Dubra, Anton Kurakin, Vitaliy Smirnov (capt),Simonas Paulius (Oleg Zhatkin 70th min), Eduard Sukhanov, Igor Tarasov, Vadim Yanchuk, Ahmed Abdultaofik (Visvaldis Ignatans 90th min+3) Tornike Tarkhnishvili (Daniils Turkovs 44th min), Olegs Timofejevs.
Unused substitutes: Vitaliy Barinov, Vladislav Koslov, Robertas Freidgeimas, Maxim Uvarenko.
Airbus: Chris Budrys 80th min.
Ventspils: Simonas Paulius 48th min.
Airbus: Chris Budrys 51st min, Sam Hart 78th min, Ian Kearney 83rd min.
Ventspils: Vitaliy Smirnov 82nd min, Kaspars Dubra 83rd min.
Referee: Nikola Popov (Bulgaria).