NIFL Championship round-up, November 28
All the latest from Championship One and Two:
Larne 4 Armagh City 4
The home side started brightly, with Donnelly forcing an early save from John Connolly. They opened the scoring on 12 minutes, when Stuart McMullan forced home a Gerard Gillan corner. Within two minutes, the sides were level. The home defence were stranded as Shea McGerrigan raced clear to drive the ball low past Paddy Flood. Another two minutes on the clock, and another goal, as Larne skipper Paul Maguire continued his rich run to hammer the ball home. He almost doubled his tally moments later, but his snap-shot flew inches over the bar. Poor defending led to the second Armagh goal on 20 minuutes. A corner from the right broke to McGerrigan, whose shot was blocked, but Gary Lawless made no mistake with the follow-up. With 32 minutes gone, a superb finish from French striker Guillaume Keke restored the Larne lead. Yet again, City bounced back when Jordan Bell was first to react, after Flood had parried Stefan Lavery’s penalty. The visitors then took the lead for the first time on 68 minutes. A corner from the left side wasn’t dealt with, and Lavery provided the finish. Michael Smith, who again impressed for Davy McAlinden’s side, set up a chance for Keke 15 minutes from time, but his header flew wide of the mark. However, with nine minutes left, Donnelly picked up the ball and his sublime lob sailed over Connolly into the net. Larne pushed forward in numbers, searching for the winner, but they had to settle for a deserved point.
Bangor 0 Lurgan Celtic 3
There was no home comfort on a cold, blustery and rain-swept Bangor Fuels Arena for the Seasiders, who slid to a 3-0 defeat to visitors Lurgan Celtic. A goal on 20 minutes from Aaron Haire, and two in the second half from Joshua Barton (57) and Haire again (87), left Bangor licking their wounds. The home side began on the attack and might have scored after five minutes, when Andy Long sent a 30-yard Mark Cooling free kick just wide of the right post from ten yards. There was plenty of effort from both teams, but a distinct lack of goalmouth action, until Celtic forward Aaron Haire sent a glancing header from a yard out inside the near upright from a looping cross by Ronan O'Hara on the left touchline. The home side missed a chance to get back on level terms n 38 minutes when Andy Long set up a chance with a low ball from the right flank, but veteran striker Andy Morrow sent his 10-yard shot past the front of the right post. Three minutes later, Paul McDowell saw a looping 19-yard shot fly just over the target. The Seasiders looked to force the pace after the break, but were caught on 57 minutes, when the lively Barton ran clear on the left to send an angled low shot from 12 yards past a helpless Chris Johns in the home goal and just inside the left upright. The goal of the match came in the 87th minute, as Haire ran through from 25 yards to give Johns no chance with a rasping drive from 15 yards.
Annagh United 1 Ballyclare Comrades 1
After an even start, the home side began to look the more dangerous, particularly from balls played into the box. On 27 minutes, they hit the front when the ball was headed in off the base of the post by Steven Park, from a Francis McCann cross. Comrades started the second half looking sharper than they had in the first. In the 54th minute they were back on level terms, when a William Wharry ball over the top of the Annagh defence set Chris Trussell free and he made no mistake, finding the back of the net with a lob over the advancing keeper from 14 yards. Shortly after, the weather conditions deteriorated, with rain and wind driving across the pitch. The home side had the best of the efforts in the last half hour, with Francis McCann twice being denied by good saves from Jonah Nicholl.
Knockbreda 2 Loughgall 2
In very blustery, wet conditions, Breda did not settle into the game and fell behind to two early Mark Dane strikes on six minutes and 13 minutes. The first was a well-finished effort from the edge of the box and the second, a header from the six-yard line from a set-piece corner kick. Breda improved with the half time introduction of subs Kyle Owens at centre back and Owain Beggs up front. Owens pulled one back when he was up-field for an attack and finished well from inside the box on 75 minutes. This gave Breda belief, and they were looking dangerous in attack, but it wasn’t until the 87th minute that they got their just reward when, following a cross from the left, striker Carl McComb scored a fine headed equaliser for a share of the spoils.
Tobermore United 1 Limavady United 1
This was always going to be an interesting affair, with Limavady not only sitting on top of the league, but having scored more goals than everyone else in Championship Two, and third-placed Tobermore with the least goals conceded in all three divisions. As expected, Limavady started the game at a fast pace, and with the wind in their backs, quickly tested the home defence but it was Tobermore who drew first blood, when Trevor Parkhill cut in from the left and placed his shot wide of Paul Wells. This early setback seemed to shock the visitors, and Wells had to make two magnificent saves at the feet of Dean Brown to prevent his side going further behind. The game was end-to-end stuff, with both sides going close, but just when Tobermore thought they were going in at half time one-up, who else but goal-machine Cathair Friel rose unmarked to head home the equaliser. The second half was just as entertaining as the first, with Limavady shading the early possession but unable to get the better of the home defence, and as the half wore on, it was the home side who looked the more likely to score, with Brown bringing another top-drawer save out of Wells and Parkhill must be wondering how his header stayed out after hitting the bar twice before bouncing out for a goal kick.
Queens University 4 Portstewart 5
In a very open game, both teams had early chances. After 20 minutes O’Hare set up Patrick Stuart and he scored with a left foot drive from 12 yards. On 35 minutes, the visitors equalised from a free kick, which Declan Brown palmed aside but Johnny Stuart reacted first and stabbed home from close range. Within a minute, Queen’s were ahead again. Following a corner, the ball fell at the feet of Matt McManus, who scored from a narrow angle. Five minutes from the break, it was level again. A deep cross from the right wing found Ryan Doherty at the far post and he dived bravely to head the ball past Brown. Five minutes after the break, Portstewart led for the first time, Craig Moore got on the end of a long clearance and placed the ball wide of the advancing Brown. Minutes later a long free kick to the far post was headed home by the unchallenged Johnny Stuart, and soon after, Doherty got his second and Portstewart’s fifth. This crazy game wasn’t finished, and Queen’s were then given hope through quick goals from Patrick Stuart and Connor Mulholland. There was still 15 minutes to go, and Queen’s pressed strongly for an equaliser. Mark Prenter’s header from a corner rolled agonisingly wide, and at the other end, Brown made a good save with his legs as Portstewart hung on for the victory.
Dollingstown 1 Moyola Park 0
The Planters Park pitch was in pristine condition despite the very wet weather and the game was never in doubt. Both teams started at a good tempo but neither keeper was really tested until the 20th minute, when Marlon Farnioh got down well at the near post to stop Glen Hand from opening the scoring and Ritchie Thompson hit the bar from the resulting corner. Thompson's pace was creating havoc, and on 36 minutes, he was brought down inside the area and Lavery converted the resultant penalty. The heavens really opened at the start of the second half and Thompson was creating numerous chances from his runs down the inside left channel. On the hour mark, Moyola lost Kris Magill to a second yellow card, but they almost equalised two minutes later when Connor Gregg shot against the outside of the post. However, this was as close as they came and for the remaining 25 minutes, it was all Dollingstown, who had four clear cut chances but failed to convert any of them. In the final minute, Glen Hand thought he had doubled the score, but once again, the visiting keeper pulled off a tremendous save to keep the scoreline at 1-0.
Banbridge Town 2 Dundela 0
Town have been steadily climbing up the table and went into Saturday’s game unbeaten in their previous five games, with four clean sheets an indication of how well the defence have been in the revival of the team’s fortunes. Town started brightly, enjoying most of the possession and pinning the visitors into the own half. Central midfielders Chris McGrath and Kevin Anderson were bossing the midfield with Pixie Moffat and Chris Kingsberry providing the service for Downey and Gourley up front, but it looked like the half would end goalless until Town broke down the left through Kingsberry, whose reverse pass was collected by Ryan Gourley, he ran into the box and, one-on one with the keeper, made no mistake with a cool finish, shooting across the keeper into the far corner. On 60 minutes, Gourley scored his and Town’s second. Moffatt played a ball to Kingsberry on the right, and the pacy winger cut inside, before feeding the ball to Gourley, who ran into the box from the left and fired low into the far corner of the Dundela net. West replaced Bickerstaff, as Dundela tried to get back in the game, but they rarely threatened the Town goal.