Welders show their Steel with six-goal derby delight over Dundela
Steel & Sons Cup second round - Dundela 0 Harland & Wolff Welders 6
Most managers would be overjoyed to lead their team to a 6-0 Steel & Sons Cup victory over their derby rivals, but perhaps the fact that Harland & Welders boss Gary Smyth seemed unmoved by it all says everything about the level of his expectations this season.
Of course, it could be argued that there is a widening gap in the standard of the clubs at present, given that the Welders were in the NIFL Championship One title hunt for the majority of last season and have every chance of being so again this time, while neighbours Dundela were relegated to this season’s Championship Two and are in the midst of a rebuilding process under new manager Darren Lockhart.
But just try telling that to the healthy number of east Belfast football supporters who packed through the Wilgar Park turnstyles to see two of the most recognisable clubs outside of local football’s top flight do battle for the bragging rights in a competition in which both can boast a rich tradition.
As former Glentoran team-mates, the respect between Smyth and Lockhart was apparent as they reflected on the afternoon’s action.
The Welders manager told The Park: “Darren is a good mate of mine, and he’ll bounce back from this no problem. I know what it’s like, management can be tough, but it’s just a case of sticking at it.
“The Duns were well in it, up until we got our third goal. We knew they would make it tough for us. Okay, we may have been 2-0 up at half time, but I had a go at them at the break, and we were much better in the second half. After the third goal it was exhibition football.
“I told the lads, ‘this could be the last time you play in the Steel & Sons Cup,’ as there won’t be teams from this division in it from next season. To be the last one from this level to get our names etched on the trophy would be special.”
Lockhart echoed many of the sentiments of his counterpart, as he stated: “We were on top for spells of the match… in the first half, we had five chances and they had five – they took their chances.
“By the time they scored their third, they were playing ‘total football.’ The thing that disappointed me at that point was that we let our heads drop. We have shown before that we can compete when we are up against it, but that didn’t happen today.”
“Of course, it’s always disappointing to lose a local derby like this, but I have put together a good squad here, and I have a lot who are to come back in.”
Goal-hungry Michael McLellan may have been frustrated to fire over from a Neil Dougan corner in the sixth minute, but he made up for this by sending the Welders into an early lead just 10 minutes later. The power of his run through with the ball meant his controlling touch looked too heavy, but he recovered quickly to steer the ball past James Taylor expertly.
Dundela responded well to going behind and in the 20th minute, Adam Neale played a square-ball to Kurtis Hanna, whose low drive was just wide of the left post, though keeper Michael Dougherty looked to have the effort covered.
The Duns continued to press, and a goal-bound shot from Neale was headed out by Dan McMurray, before Dougan headed over from Chris Middleton’s resultant corner.
However, as both managers later agreed, the Welders were much more clinical in front of goal, and had doubled their advantage by the 26th minute, when Dougan sent David Rainey through to send a sweet chip in off the far post.
The hosts did continue through the half in positive fashion, with a series of crosses and set-pieces, but, to a man, the Welders back-line remained resolute to keep their time-honoured rivals at bay.
Early in the second half, there was quality from both teams, as a sublimely struck 30-yard effort from Neil Dougan was equalled by the fantastic reflexes of James Taylor, who got up well to punch it out for a corner.
As the game entered its latter stages, Middleton looked in the mood for a goal, and was unlucky not to score as he broke through to crash a lobbed strike off the underside of the crossbar. However, he got his reward soon after, in the 75th minute, capitalising on a mis-clearance from Matthew Kerr to smash the ball in from close range.
This was when the floodgates seemed to open, as Rainey doubled his personal tally with a powerful strike in the 77th minute, then completed his hat-trick just under ten minutes later, sending Taylor the wrong way from the spot, after Owen Thompson brought down the lively Dougan.
So it’s already eight goals in four games from the double act of Rainey and McLellan, and it would surely have produced even more on Saturday, had McLellan not limped off with a hamstring injury, two minutes into the second half.
There is surely every chance that last season’s tally between the pair of 70 goals all season, but even if it doesn’t, another neat finish from Middleton before the final whistle served as evidence to Smyth and Welders supporters that goals aren’t likely to be in shortage for this campaign.
MAN OF THE MATCH: David Rainey (H&W Welders). The hat-trick hero, and on-course for yet another free-scoring season ahead.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The moment when the Welders scored their third – through Chris Middleton in the 75th minute – was when they began to turn on the style.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: James Taylor’s superb punch to keep out Neil Dougan’s sure-fire strike from all of 30 yards, early in the second half.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: Dundela’s Matthew Kerr knocking the ball into the path of the advancing Middleton to concede the third of the afternoon.
James Taylor: Made some impressive saves, but still conceded six. 4
Owen Thompson: Quick to the ball. 7
Matthew Kerr: Will be gutted by his late error. 5
Stephen Shaw: Could have been sharper. 5
David Murphy: Looked tired by the end. 5
Stephen Gourley: Caught the eye early on. 6
Jamie Jackson: Put in a shift. 5
Gary Irwin: Drifted in and out of the game. 5
Mark McClelland: Got himself into good positions. 7
Adam Neale: Usually involved when Duns got among the chances. 6
Kurtis Hanna: Did his best to make things happen. 6
Ethan Knipe: On for Shaw, 53
Jordan West: On for Irwin, 61
Nathan Jones: On for Hanna, 67
Jonathan Sergent: Not used
Lex Walker: Not used
Michael Dougherty: A blemish-free afternoon. 8
Paul Dickson: Pushed well to give a solid option on the right. 8
William Armstrong: Always in control. 7
Craig Harris: Never hurried his clearances. 7
Gary Spence: Very rarely compromised. 7
Dan McMurray: Strong in the air, and on the ground. 8
Chris Middleton: Assertive and clinical. 8
Neil Dougan: A genuine threat in the final third. 8
Sammy Devine: Creative and industrious. 7
Michael McLellan: Surely would have scored even more with a full game. 7
David Rainey: Lethal in front of goal. 9
Scott McMillan: On for McLellan, 47
Jonathan Bowers: On for Devine, 61
Ryan Deans: On for Dickson, 70
Tony Galbraith: Not used.