Barn come out on top in nervy basement battle with Killyleagh
Barn United manager Tommy Kincaid is bracing himself for a nerve-wrecking finale to the season after securing maximum points from their potential relegation six-pointer with Killyleagh YC.
The former Larne, Ards and Lisburn Distillery manager agreed to take over from long-serving gaffer Jim Pherson in early January until the end of the season, and has set his sights on one target – keeping Barn in Division 1A.
And while Saturday’s victory may not have been pretty, it takes Barn a point above their second-from-bottom opponents, and therefore out of the relegation zone, with half their league fixtures for the season still remaining.
Just what the doctor ordered – metaphorically speaking, if not literally so…
Kincaid admitted: “That wasn’t good for the heart… and I did say to the players afterwards, ‘did you not realise that I had a suspected heart attack two years ago?’
“It was a real scrap out there, and probably every game will be a scrap until the end of the season. But I have been involved in games in the Championship that weren’t the most exciting or perhaps didn’t always mean so much. This means something, and when I got the call from the club, I could tell from talking to them how much they want to stay up.
“It will be a challenge, but I am enjoying it, and make no mistake, that was a big, big game for us today.”
On a rain-drenched Haslett Park, in blustery conditions, the stage really was set for a battle between two teams desperate to gain headway in the race for survival.
The early stages saw little in the way of quality, both in possession and in opportunities, with Tayler Thomson dragging a shot wide and Matthew McDonald scissor-kicking wildly over from Thomson’s cross. At the other end, Peter Strain was equally wasteful as he lashed an effort over the bar.
Indeed, there was even something frantic and desperate in Barn’s 13th minute opener, as a Mark Tweedie’s hopeful long-distance shot took a deflection as it bobbled its way past visiting goalkeeper Alistair Coburn.
The away side were unfortunate not to draw level 10 minutes later, as Jack Forbes’ fine through-ball found the advancing Strain, who did manage to get a good shot in, but the full-stretched Dean Haggan met it with an even better diving save.
McDonald continued to look lively for Barn in the final third, forcing two Coburn saves in quick succession, from a header and a low-driven attempt.
Strain seemed to be the likeliest goal source for Killyleagh, and while his close-range effort had Haggan beaten, trusty Barn skipper Paul Mathers had the danger covered, and cleared before the ball could reach the home side’s net.
When Barn doubled their lead in the 40th minute, it was no surprise so see McDonald involved in the build-up. It was he who took the ball into the box before a collision with Coburn led referee Stuart McFarland to point to the penalty spot.
Up stepped Andrew Kane, full of confidence and conviction, to stroke the ball into the bottom left hand corner.
On paper, a two-goal lead may have appeared a comfortable cushion for Kincaid’s men, but Killyleagh knew having the wind at their backs in the second half would give them some hope of staging a comeback.
Sure enough, they did enjoy a fair percentage of the attacking possession for the remainder, but it seemed to be the finishing touches that were just deserting them at the crucial moment.
For instance, in the 53rd minute, Strain put a searching ball in to the back post, but it was just beyond Stefan Lynch, who was just unable to stretch far enough to make the necessary connection. Minutes after this, Ryan Blaney ‘s 30-yard strike went wide of the mark.
When Gary Murray could only lob over from an angle with time to spare, and a dipping effort from Darren McConnell clipped the bar, it looked like it just wasn’t going to be Killyleagh’s day.
In fact, Barn could have wrapped up the result in the 73rd minute, as McDonald had his shot well saved, when a square-pass to Matthew Bingham would surely have been the more profitable option.
Instead, Kincaid and co were faced with a nervy closing 10 minutes, after Forbes collected the ball from a quick Strain throw-in, before drilling it home from 20 yards.
Yet Barn maintained their discipline and held out, to leave Killyleagh’s joint managers Mark Murray and Dale Davidson contemplating just how they can prevent this proud Amateur League club’s second relegation in successive seasons.
Murray stated: “We are definitely in a relegation dog-fight now, and it is just a case of continuing to fight for the points while they are still available. The good thing from our point of view is that we have more home matches than away ones left.
“It is very difficult to put into words what is happening here at the minute. I played during the time when we won six Premier Division titles in a row, so yes, it is a hard thing to see.
“Maybe sometimes you need to go down to come back up again, but whatever happens this season, Dale and I will be looking to rebuild at Killyleagh. There is a good youth system in place, and we have to fight on.”
MAN OF THE MATCH: Matthew McDonald (Barn United). His positive attitude was a key factor in Barn’s victory .
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Killyleagh may not have had anything to show for Jack Forbes’ late strike, but it was the moment that left spectators with a nail-biting conclusion to this game.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Dean Haggan’s stop from Peter Strain on 23 minutes was top class.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: Killyleagh would have had a much better chance of getting something from this game had it not been for conceding the 40th minute penalty.
Dean Haggan: Showed class between the sticks. 8
Matthew Doyle: Tidy in defence. 8
Aaron Anderson: Made most of his tackles count. 7
Paul Mathers: Led by example. 7
Neil McKnight: Strong in the air. 7
Stephen Smyth: Vocal and imposing. 7
Mark Tweedie: A bustling midfield display. 8
Jackson Griffiths: Kept things ticking along. 7
Andrew Kane: Cool from the spot. 7
Matthew McDonald: Kept the keeper on his toes. 8
Tayler Thomson: Did his best to get involved where possible. 7
Matthew Bingham: On for Griffiths, 59
William Glass: Not used
Adam McGivern: Not used
Alistair Coburn: Had his moments. 7
Jonny Murray: Not lacking in effort. 7
Jonathan Sharvin: Threw himself into every challenge. 7
Gary Murray: Made a few decent runs. 7
Jordan Kennedy: A steady enough showing. 7
Ryan Blaney: Committed and determined. 8
Peter Strain: A strong attacking attacking threat. 8
Darren McConnell: Industrious in the centre. 7
Jack Forbes: Took his chance when he got it. 8
Nicky Hagan: Had a quiet first half. 6
Kieran Sullivan: Moved the ball quickly and efficiently. 8
Stefan Lynch: On for Hagan, 45
Michael McGreevy: Not used
Dale Davidson: Not used
Belfast Telegraph Digital