Three and easy for Peoples as young Crusaders topple Malachians
Crusaders Reserves striker Jamie Peoples exemplified the confidence running through the young second string outfit by following his hat-trick against Malachians in the first round of the Intermediate Cup with a serious statement of intent.
The 18-year-old hotshot has played his part in helping the Seaview side reach the Steel & Sons Cup semi-final, and insists Gavin Arthur’s reserves have what it takes to make a clean sweep of NIFL Reserve League, Steel Cup and Intermediate Cup glory this season.
He told The Park: “I think we are good enough to win them all. We pass the ball about so well that we make it difficult for any team to play against us. I honestly feel we are good enough to go all the way in this competition, but after getting into the semi-final, the Steel & Sons Cup would be the big one for us. ”
Aside from his thirst for silverware, Peoples clearly has a desire to break into the first team – a tall order given the club’s fantastic early-season form at the summit of the Danske Bank Premiership.
He added: “Obviously it’s tough to get in, but all I can keep doing is playing as well as I can, and hopefully the manager will speak to (first team boss) Stephen Baxter about how things are going.”
The Crusaders supremo will surely be interested to hear of the progress of this young talent, but it was Amateur League Premier Division men Malachians who struck the first blow.
And it arrived with less than two minutes on the clock – a rare moment of confusion from Geoff McKinty, as he attempted a routine clearance, but instead knocked the ball straight to Nick Light, who was left with a simple tap-in.
However, Peoples had the scores level within seven minutes, chipping Niall Largey from the corner of the area with a sublime finish.
Peoples was instrumental once again, when Crusaders Reserves surged into the lead in the 21st minute. The striker rose with Largey in a bid for the ball, but although the goalkeeper won, he blundered it into the path of Ross Holden, who smashed home with aplomb.
The momentum was very much with the visitors, and they extended their lead just two minutes later. This time, it was very much an individual effort, as Peoples won the ball in midfield, then burst forward before slotting the ball into the bottom right hand corner.
Malachians did their best to restore parity, as a 33rd minute free kick looked destined for the net until Adam Wilson headed it out for a corner, while McCourt charity, five minutes later, McKinty dropped the ball from a Jerome McAtee free kick, but as he spotted Mark McCourt charging towards him, he made sure to hold it firmly to his grasp.
With half time approaching, Holden cut the ball back to Peoples, who happily obliged with a calm finish into the roof of the net, to leave Mals with a huge mountain to climb.
The home side, however, made every effort to get themselves back into this tie, as they brought the deficit back to two within 50 seconds of the second half. McCourt chased up a loose ball that wasn’t dealt with by McKinty, and half time substitute Stevie McDonagh charged in to capitalise with his first touch of the afternoon.
Crusaders Reserves manager Gavin Arthur was left complaining to the referee when he felt Salou Jallow was taken down unlawfully in the box, only to see his claims waved away.
However, the Crues were awarded a penalty in the 63rd minute, courtesy of a Gareth O’Neill foul on Declan O’Neill. Richard Vauls stepped up to take the spot kick, but put it well wide of the target.
Malachians weren’t completely out of this just yet, and Jerome McAtee showed good skill as he went on a promising individual run down the left, but his eventual shot hit the side-netting. Then, in 84th minute, the ball was pumped forward to Taplin, and with time on his side, he really should have done better – but ended up thrashing across the face of goal.
Crusaders pushed for a fifth in the late stages, and even though Peoples had two attempts saved, he had done all the damage with that irrepressible first half hat-trick.
Nonetheless, Malachians player-manager Daniel Bell remained positive in the face of defeat.
He said: “Yes, the better side won, but we brought in three 17-year-olds from the second team, and while they played well, you can see the difference that the experience of players like Molloy and Morrow made out there.
“I’m proud of the boys today. We hadn’t scored in seven games before today, apart from two own goals, so it’s nice to be able to celebrate that we got a couple of goals. Onwards and upwards. ”
MAN OF THE MATCH: Jamie Peoples (Crusaders Reserves). Three goals, each taken with expert finesse.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Nick Light’s 2nd minute strike was surely the catalyst for the goal-fest that followed.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Nothing stood out to catch the eye.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: Richard Vauls should at least have tested the keeper from the penalty spot, midway through the second half.
Niall Largey: Will have better days. 5
Barry Webb: A quiet enough game. 6
Gareth O’Neill: Committed in his tackling. 7
Peter Corr: Arguably Mals’ best defensive display. 7
Brian Downey: A decent first half. 6
Damien Mulholland: Not the most prominent performance. 5
Stephen McFaul: Drifted in and out of the game. 6
Jerome McAtee: Showed great range. 7
Jay Donnan: Kept plugging away. 7
Mark McCourt: Nothing was a lost cause. 7
Nick Light: Made things happen from time to time. 7
Francis Taplin: On for Downey, 49
Stevie McDonagh: On for Donnan, 45
Daniel Bell: On for McCourt, 73
Stephen McElevey: Not used
Geoff McKinty: A fair effort. 6
Michael Kerr: Did all that was asked off him. 6
Richard Vauls: Conceding penalty the only blot on his copybook. 7
Adam Wilson: Quick to the ball. 7
Cameron Stewart: Won everything in the air and most on the ground, too. 8
Barry Molloy: A strong presence in the centre. 7
Ross Holden: Not short on effort. 7
Chris Morrow: A steady showing, great at set pieces. 7
Jamie Peoples: Lethal marksman, particularly in the first half. 9
Salou Jallow: Superb footwork and composure on the ball. 7
Craig Gardiner: A promising outlet on the left. 7
Declan O’Neill: On for Holden, 45
Podraig McPartland: On for Kerr, 45
Nathan Spiers: On for Jallow, 58
Belfast Telegraph Digital