NIFL Championship round-up, April 23
All the latest from Championship One and Two:
Institute 1 Ards 2
Carl McCombe’s second half strike ensured Niall Currie’s side collected all three points, but Stute boss Kevin Deery was bitterly disappointed by his team’s performance. After a nervy start, it was the visitors who had half a chance on 19 minutes when Denver Gage’s flick-on found Gary Dorrian, but the midfielder’s glancing header flew just wide. The deadlock was broken on 23 minutes in superb fashion when Niall Grace’s clever pass released Gareth Brown and the striker made no mistake, curling the ball high into Ryan Brown’s top right hand corner, from the just inside the box. Ards levelled things on 30 minutes after Thomas Lambe’s corner from the right found Gage at the back post, and his downward header somehow went past Stute goalkeeper Marty Gallagher. Kevin Deery made a positive change at the break with the in-form Pomeroy replacing Jamie Dunne, as Stute moved two strikers up top. Ards went into the lead in fortunate circumstances on 60 minutes when Gallagher’s throw-out was miss-controlled by the unfortunate Aaron Harkin and the ball fell perfectly for McCombe, and the winger’s first time chip could only be pushed into the net by the back tracking Stute keeper. Institute missed a golden chance to level things on 68 minutes from the penalty spot when Pomeroy was brought down inside the box by John Convery, however Ciaron Harkin’s poor effort from 12 yards was kept out by Brown. In stoppage time, Pomeroy had a great chance to snatch a point when he broke in behind the Ards defence, but with his weaker left foot, he fired wide.
Bangor 2 Larne 1
Seasiders veteran, Andy Morrow, was made captain for the day, as the forward played his final home game for the club he joined as a 22-year-old at the start of season 2002/03, and to whom he has remained loyal ever since. Although he failed to add to his tally of 140 goals for the club, Andy led his team to a hard-fought 2-1 success over visitors Larne - a defeat which has put an end to the Inver Park club’s promotion hopes. Larne grabbed the first goal of the game on 23 minutes. A corner on the right from Sam McIlveen was half-cleared by the Bangor defence out to Thomas Robinson who slammed home from the edge of the area. Eight minutes later, Bangor were back on level terms. Midfielder Barry Walsh shot from five yards outside the area, the ball deflected off a Larne defender to wrong-foot the keeper, and then rolled inside the right post. Indeed the Seasiders might have added another a minute into added time when the lively Gerard McMullan cut in from the left to fire inches past the foot of the left upright from nine yards. The home side began the second half well, taking the ball to their opponents, but for all the pressure, shots were few and far between. A 25-yard blaster from Walsh on 67 minutes which flew over the crossbar was the nearest either side came to a goal. As the final whistle approached, Larne were thrown a chance when home defender Tommy Wray handled five yards outside his area. From Scott Irvine’s free kick, Darren Stuart headed against the crossbar, the home defence scrambled the ball forward for live-wire Lucas to sprint from midway inside his own half and slam the ball past the advancing Brennan from 15 yards to seal the victory.
Dergview 0 Ballyclare Comrades 4
Dergview’s unbeaten run of seven games that ultimately secured their Championship One status for another season was ended in emphatic fashion by in-form Ballyclare Comrades at Darragh Park on Saturday. Both sides went into the game safe in the knowledge that relegation was no longer an issue. Richard Clarke's charges conceded two early goals and two late strikes by the excellent Michael O'Hanlon, and Gary Brown rubber-stamped the visitors' victory to leave their opponents in need of inspiration as they face three games in five days against HW Welders, Lurgan Celtic and Knockbreda. With just seven minutes gone, Comrades left-back Mark Shannon dispatched a free kick with power and accuracy to Corey Wilson's top left hand corner. Three minutes later, Wilson gifted Ballyclare a second. The home goalkeeper went walkabout to hoof the ball to safety, but when his attempted clearance fell perfectly to O'Hanlon, the midfielder returned it with interest to find a yawning net. With 12 minutes remaining, O’Hanlon galloped away on the right to beat Wilson with a powerful shot. Then in the dying embers, Dergview's misery was complete when centre-back Colin Robinson and Wilson got their wires crossed and Brown was on-hand to take full advantage by guiding the ball into a gaping net.
Armagh City 2 Knockbreda 1
The opening stages were quite cagey with neither side getting a real foothold in the game. The visitors had the ball in the net after 10 minutes but the effort was ruled out for offside. City took the lead 20 minutes in, when Stefan Lavery latched onto an excellent through-ball from Ryan McGerrigan before lobbing the ball over the advancing keeper Stevie McKay. Minutes later, the lead should have been doubled when Shea McGerrigan fired into the side-netting following excellent build-up play involving Stefan Lavery and Philip Donnelly. Just before the half-hour mark, the home side were awarded a penalty when Andrew Hoey was fouled in the box. Stefan Lavery dispatched the penalty confidently to extend the lead. The nearest Knockbreda came to getting into the game was when they flashed a free kick across the face of the home side goal. City almost extended their lead but McKay came to Knockbreda’s rescue, when he did well to save a Hoey effort. Five minutes before the interval, the visitors reduced the arrears when Kyle Owens broke through the home defence before firing the ball past Sean Morgan in the home goal. The second half saw plenty of effort from both sides, but chances were few and far between. The best of the chances for the home side came when a Shea McGerrigan flashed over the bar, a Hoey effort was blocked, and a Jordan Bell effort saved by the visiting keeper. The visitors did have an opportunity to grab a late equaliser when a David McMaster effort was saved by Morgan.
Loughgall 1 Annagh United 0
A well-worked goal from Aaron Walsh in the second half wrapped up all three points for Loughgall as they defeated local rivals Annagh United at Lakeview Park. Boss Gerald Boyle made one change from last week’s late loss against Institute with Marcus Dallas replacing Paul Stretton. The first half was a fairly tight affair with neither side really carving out any clear goal-scoring opportunities. Nicky Hudson threatened for the hosts five minutes after the break when he was attacking a corner, his effort hit off the crossbar and bounced on the line before being cleared to safety. The winning goal came in the 63rd minute, when a great free-kick routine saw Walsh and Warner Mullen combine for the former to fire home inside the near post past ex-Loughgall keeper Marc Robinson. Annagh should have levelled in injury time when substitute Scott McCordick rounded keeper Gareth Buchanan, however the striker dragged the ball too far and couldn’t squeeze in a shot into the empty net.
Queen’s University 0 Limavady United 2
The first goal arrived in less than 60 seconds. Limavady won a corner on the left and when the ball fell kindly for their captain, Hugh Carlin, his first time shot found the net through a number of legs. The rest of the half was very open with many chances for both teams, especially the visitors. Cathair Friel had two good chances, and other opportunities came the way of Lee Harkin and Paul Owens. Daniel Hanna had a chance for Queen’s but his header from a corner was saved by Paul Wells. Queen’s had much more possession in the second half but found chances hard to come by, and it was Limavady who broke away for the second goal after 65 minutes. Friel outpaced the Queen’s defence on the left wing and when he pulled the ball back from the byline, Owens was on-hand to shoot home from eight yards. Queen’s battled on and came close on a number of occasions. A free kick into the box was fumbled by Wells, and Mark Prenter seemed sure to score, but his shot was blocked by Wells. In the final minute, another free into the Limavady box was headed goal-wards by Daniel Culbert, only for Wells to save his side again.
Banbridge Town 1 PSNI 1
With a vital three points at stake for both sides, it was Banbridge Town who left the field the more satisfied. Tuda Murphy, in the Town nets, controlled his 18-yard box with much authority, indeed throughout the 90 minutes, he was kept on his toes. At the opposite end, Jordan Williamson was almost a spectator as the police mounted attack after attack on Banbridge. Williamson was called upon to make two excellent saves, one in each half. Owen Moody had the first chance of the day for the police when, on four minutes, he blasted his effort just wide. Two disputed penalty decisions resulted in the only goals of the game. The first fell to Banbridge on the 26th minute, with Town captain Ryan Moffatt scoring. The second penalty was awarded on the 57th minute, with Lukasz Adamczyk putting the police on level terms. A later claim for a penalty by the police was waved away. Despite relentless pressure, the Banbridge Town defence was able to withstand everything the police threw at them.
Tobermore United 2 Coagh United 1
The Tyrone men didn't play like a team already doomed and after shading early possession, they took the lead on 33 minutes when home keeper Matty McGraw made a magnificent save to prevent Taylor from putting the visitors ahead, but his defence was slow to react and when the ball came back into the box, the unmarked Todd was on-hand to tap it home. Tobermore upped the anti in the second half and deservedly equalised on the hour mark, when captain Conor Cairns stooped to head home from a Trevor Parkhill corner kick. The visitors, however, weren’t going down without a fight and McGraw had to be at his best on several occasions to prevent them from going in front again. At the other end, ex-Tobermore keeper Willie Hassan brought off some excellent saves as Tobermore went looking for a second, but with five minutes to go, he could do nothing to prevent the winning goal, when the hard-working Dean Brown anticipated a headed back-pass, and with the slightest of touches, he beat Hassan to the ball and his effort hit the back post before nestling in the back of the net to give the reds all three points.
Dollingstown 3 Portstewart 0
This was a must-win game for DFC, as they continued their fight for survival in The Championship. In the first minute, skipper Moffett headed against the bar but the Dollybirds took the lead on 13 minutes, when Hand scored for the second match in a row. Full-back Denver was denied on 34 minutes, when the keeper pushed his long range effort onto the bar. Playing with a strong wind at their backs in the first half, DFC really needed a second goal to ease the tension, and midfielder Lavery duly obliged with a contender for goal of the season when his thunderous free kick from fully 40 yards simply flew into the net. The second half started in a positive mood for DFC, who created three to four good chances through Walker and Thompson and Gibson but all failed to convert. On 82 minutes, Lavery and Gibson were replaced by Adams and Tomelty and on 85 minutes, Denver replaced by Coleman. In the final minute, McConnell was adjudged to have been fouled in the area and Hand stepped up to score his second of the afternoon, from the penalty spot.
Moyola Park 1 Sport & Leisure Swifts 1
The first chance of the game came in the fourth minute, when Dowie had a shot blocked following a corner from Gray, and in the seventh minute, Glenholmes for the visitors fired over the bar. Play flowed from end to end and chances fell to both sides without reward. The 26th minute saw Maybin save a shot from the visitors, and the follow-up shot came back off the crossbar. McMullan opened the scoring for the visitors in the 34th minute, but Moyola got the equaliser in the 45th minute, when a ball in from Gallagher was knocked past Magill by Dowie to leave the score 1-1 at half time. The visitors had a great chance early the second half when Lynch saw his effort saved by Maybin, and a minute later, Kelly came to the rescue when he cleared a shot from Glenholmes. The 70th minute saw Tully shoot wide for the visitors and a minute later, a free kick from McIlhatton brought a double-save from the in-form Magill, as Gallagher was first to the rebound. Sport & Leisure were reduced to 10 men as Gray was shown red before the end.