Knockbreda left to rue missed opportunities as Ards take their chances
NIFL Championship One - Ards 2 Knockbreda 0
If ever there was an example of why it is important to kill a game off when you are in the ascendancy, this was it. Unfortunately for Knockbreda against Ards on Saturday, they were unable to do just that, and as a result, paid the price with defeat.
The Upper Braniel Road side arrived at the Bangor Fuels Arena five points behind their hosts who continue to sit level on points with Championship One leaders H&W Welders, but it was Knockbreda who set the tone for most of the first half, and their manager Raymond Bell was understandably frustrated they didn’t take their opportunities during this early period of domination.
He lamented: “We should have been three or four-up in the first 15 minutes, but we just didn’t have the conviction to put it away.
“Our keeper hardly had a save to make until they got their first goal, but we finished the first half happy enough that we could still get something from the game. The defences were on top in the second half, and it was another error that cost us again. It’s tough to take.
“The important thing for us was to come away with some kind of a result today, to keep us in and around the top four or five, and we haven’t done that. I’m really disappointed with the result.”
Bell wasn’t exaggerating when he referred to the number of clear-cut chances Knockbreda had in the early period of this game.
In fact, it must have been concerning for the home fans as they watched Stephen McCain fire just wide of the right post, Dylan Wilson’s goal-bound shot deflect out, David McMaster drive narrowly off target, Michael Halliday producing a great save from Ryan Brown with a pin-point header, and David Johnston head just wide, all in the space of 12 minutes.
With so many ‘Breda players lining up to break the deadlock, it appeared only a matter of time before they would, particularly given that Ards rarely got the ball into the opposition half at this point.
Still the away pressure continued, as Brown was grateful to see Dylan Wilson strike a powerful low effort into his grasp, while the Ards keeper had to be alert to claim the ball from a James Wright free kick to prevent Halliday from getting a head to it.
But things weren’t going to stay this one-sided forever, and there was a collective sigh of relief from the home support when, in the 29th minute, Ards got their first real chance, with Knockbreda keeper Jordan Williamson tipping over the bar from a Craig McMillen ball destined for Jordan Baker.
And when an unmarked John Convery headed home from the resultant Gary Warwick corner, that sense of relief turned into joy.
Convery’s value was demonstrated to his team-mates in his traditional defensive role less than 10 minutes after scoring, when he threw his body in the way of a well-struck attempt from Matty King.
Ards could have notched a second goal before half-time as Baker attempted to capitalise on a loose backward header from Kyle Owens, but Williamson claimed the ball with confidence.
Chances were much rarer all round in the second half, and when referee Peter McGrath waved away Daniel Burns’ claims he had been brought down in the box by Greg Hall in the 73rd minute, Knockbreda may have considered this might not be their day.
That was certainly the case three minutes later, when Danny McKee captured the ball from their high-pressing backline, before sending it forward to Craig McMillen, who in turn slotted coolly past the advancing Williamson.
Knockbreda could have pulled one back in the 83rd minute, although Carl McCombe cross into Halliday had too much pace, and the former Glentoran man headed over.
Any hopes of even a consolation goal became yet more remote when Simon Hanna was shown a red card with three minutes left, but in truth, Knockbreda’s fate was ultimately decided by the difference in the two sides’ finishing on the day.
Ards boss Niall Currie admitted: “I thought we looked leggy today, but then three games in a week is hard going for part-time footballers. We had to weather the first 20/25 minutes of storm, but after that, I don’t think they gave us many problems, especially not in the second half.
“I thought that was a warrior display – we dug in and showed a lot of character. And of course, as a former goalkeeper myself, I have to say the clean sheet was a bonus. We rode our luck a bit, but I thought we deserved that clean sheet.”
MAN OF THE MATCH: Ryan Brown (Ards). Gave his side the platform to make up for a sluggish start.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: John Convery’s 30th minute header was the moment Ards turned this game in their favour.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Ryan Brown’s save from Michael Halliday during Knockbreda’s early flurry of chances.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: This should really go collectively to the number of missed opportunities from Knockbreda in that dominant first half spell.
Ryan Brown: Stayed resolute in the face of early pressure. 9
Greg Hall: Put in a solid shift. 7
James Cully: A reasonable performance. 7
John Convery: Defended well and well-placed for his goal. 8
Thomas Lambe: Picked out his team-mates from distance. 8
Ben Browne: Injury cut his game short. 6
Ross Arthurs: Gave decent cover to the back-line. 7
Gary Warwick: Assist was the highlight of his day. 7
Danny McKee: Provided an option in attack. 7
Craig McMillen: Great finish when it was needed. 8
Jordan Baker: Chances were limited. 8
Eamon McAllister: On for Warwick, 57
Emmet Templeton: On for Browne, 57
Denver Gage: On for Baker, 73
Gary Dorrian: Not used
James Sofley: Not used
Jordan Williamson: A mixed bag of an afternoon. 6
Matty King: Pressed well up the right flank. 6
Stephen Cockroft: Terrific service from out on the left. 8
Adam Wright: A decent effort. 7
Kyle Owens: Cut out the danger more often than not. 7
Stephen McCain: Great composure on the ball. 8
David McMaster: Terrier-like effort. 7
James Wright: Top range with his passing. 8
Michael Halliday: Threw himself into every challenge. 7
David Johnston: Involved in most of Knockbreda’s attacking moves. 8
Dylan Wilson: Clever runs gave Ards plenty to think about. 7
Daniel Burns: On for Wilson, 45
Simon Hanna: On for D Johnston, 66
Carl McCombe: On for J Wright, 78
Ross Davidson: Not used
Matty Johnston: Not used
Belfast Telegraph Digital