Dundela shake off the shackles with Irish Cup win over Ballymoney
Dundela 4 Ballymoney United 1
Dundela manager Mark Snodden has had to endure a difficult season so far at Wilgar Park, but he believes his side’s 4-1 win over Ballymoney United in the Irish Cup fourth round on Saturday could be the turning point he’s been crying out for.
The Belfast Telegraph Championship One strugglers ended a woeful run of six games without victory with this result, and while it was hardly vintage stuff from the Duns, their supporters will surely have been pleased to see them win a football match in fairly comfortable fashion.
Thoughts will inevitably now turn to what the forthcoming fifth round draw will throw up for the east Belfast men, but Snodden is just as interested to see what effect it can have on their overall campaign.
The Dundela boss admitted: “In all my years in junior football, the Irish Cup has always been about getting one of the big senior sides in round five. It would be great if we get that this year, but what would be even better for us would be if we could draw someone we felt confident of beating in the round, as the further we go, the more it will help us build momentum.
“We have just come through one of the longest bad runs I can remember at this club, but hopefully now, this can kick us on. I was missing Timmy Clarke and Mark McClelland today, and with the way things have been going, this was always going to be a potential banana skin.
“I have to be pleased that we got the win. The challenge now is to do it against teams in our own league, and push ourselves up the table.”
This game could justifiably have been dubbed the battle of the basement battlers. Both teams have been right up against it, but while Dundela are currently stuttering just above the Championship One relegation zone, Ballymoney are rooted to rock bottom of Championship Two, with just a solitary point from nine games.
With that in mind, the Duns may have been preparing to rack up the goals, and their blistering start to the cup tie suggested as much.
After collecting the ball from an Andrew Simms break on 7 minutes, Carl McComb fired a cross along the face of the Ballymoney goal, and Nathan Jones rifled it into the bottom left corner.
Just three minutes later, the shell-shocked visitors found themselves two behind, after yet another fine cross from McComb picked out Andrew Simms who drove the ball home from close range.
It should have been straightforward from here, but Ballymoney lifted themselves in a bid to make sure it wasn’t.
A brief moment of confusion ensued in the 20th minute, as keeper Jonathan Sergeant audibly called for a loose ball, only to see Scott Collins clear straight to Mark Dempsey. Happily for the goalkeeper – and probably even more so his defensive colleague – he was able to gather from Dempsey’s cross.
Unfortunately, the Duns shot-stopper suffered another nervy moment just seconds later, as he called for the ball from a corner and although he fumbled his catch to Jamie Hannah, he proved equal to the midfielder’s eventual effort.
Ballymoney refused to accept that there was no way back for them in this, and it took another good stop from Sergeant – this time saving a Jordan Craig header from a Hannah free kick – to keep the scores as they were.
Although they were behind, this was a bright spell for the Championship Two team, with Dempsey breaking well to feed through to Francis McKenna, who fired left of the post.
Dundela seemed to recognise this improvement and endeavoured to put the outcome beyond reach. Jamie Jackson was unlucky, and perhaps a little overstretched, to head narrowly over from a Simms cross, but when Shane Dooey clipped Nathan Jones in the box, it gave the hosts the perfect opportunity. Stephen Gourley duly obliged with a neat finish from the spot.
To their credit, Ballymoney still pressed forward and were rewarded for their attitude with a goal just before half time, with the hard-working Che Bradley on hand to smash in after Sergeant had parried out from an earlier McKenna effort.
The second half was more closely contested, with both teams surely feeling they should have increased their respective tallies – Dundela coming closest in the 71st minute when a fantastic finger-tip save from Bryan Moore kept out Jackson’s goal-bound header, while just prior to that, a stinging free kick from Ballymoney’s McKenna took a deflection off the wall to send it crashing off the outside of the post.
In the end, Bradley’s 44th minute goal proved only to be a consolation, while Dundela wrapped up their account with one last goal, courtesy of Jackson, whose header from a Simms corner just made it over the line.
So Ballymoney’s Irish Cup story comes to an abrupt conclusion for this season, but their manager Russell Stirling, like his counterpart, is more interested in the wider implications for his team.
He stated: “The most disappointing thing for me is that we started so slowly. We came into the game after they got their first two goals, but if we had started better, then who knows what might have happened?
“Dundela have an experienced group of players and it was always going to be tough for us, but I am delighted with the effort of our young lads today. The scoreline is probably a little harsh on us, but there are plenty of positives for us to take.”
Jonathan Sergeant: Had an eventful afternoon. 7
David Gibson: Dealt with any pressure well. 7
Scott Collins: Overall solid performance. 7
Aaron Keenan: Left nothing to chance. 7
Andrew Ferguson: Rarely dispossessed. 7
Stephen Gourley: A commanding display at the back and solid penalty. 8
Jamie Jackson: Enthusiastic and full of running. 7
Stephen McCain: Steady and assured. 7
Carl McComb: Crosses kept visiting defence on their toes. 8
Nathan Jones: Good movement and purpose. 8
Andrew Simms: A massive attacking threat. 9
Michael Halliday: On for McComb, 71
Gary Irwin: On for Aaron Keenan, 82
Kyle Owens: On for Gibson, 61
Mikey Herron: Not used
Jordan West: Not used
Bryan Moore: Made a few decent saves. 6
Danny Brown: Got stuck in. 7
Connor O’Hare: Not an eye-catching display. 6
Jordan Craig: Covered plenty of ground. 7
Shane Dooey: Penalty conceded on a difficult day. 6
Lee McCelland: Drifted in and out of the game. 6
Mark Dempsey: Helped maintain Ballymoney’s positive approach. 7
Jamie Hannah: Put in some quality tackles. 7
Mark Dickson: Only got a half due to injury. 6
Francis McKenna: Good set pieces but struggled with Duns defence. 7
Che Bradley: Pressed hard and deserved his goal. 8
Con Og Boyle: On for Bradley, 74
Daniel Connor: On for O’Hare, 77
Gary Moore: On for Dickson, 42
Belfast Telegraph Digital