Belfast Telegraph

Mark Snodden hopes Dundela win is season's turning point

Dundela 4 Ballymoney United 1 - Irish Cup

By Martin Mawhinney

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, 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 boys. 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 the bottom of Championship Two, with just a 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 seven minutes, Carl McComb fired a cross along the face of the Ballymoney goal, and Nathan Jones rifled it into the net.

Just three minutes later, the shell-shocked visitors found themselves two behind, after another fine cross from McComb picked out Simms, who drove home from close range.

It should have been straightforward from there, 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.

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, 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 finger-tip save from Bryan Moore kept out Jackson's 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 courtesy of Jackson, whose header from a 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.

"The scoreline is probably a little harsh on us, but there are plenty of positives for us to take."

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