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Championship round-up December 21

Round-up of action from Championship One & Two:

Championship One:

Larne 4 Institute 3

Larne claimed a valuable three league points on Saturday when they edged out Institute in a seven-goal Christmas cracker.

It looked done and dusted with 34 minutes left as the Reds led 4-1 against the visitors, who were down to 10 men. The home side then took their eye off the ball and allowed Stute back into the game, but held on for a deserved win.

With only two minutes gone, Paul Maguire saw his shot from the left side of the box scrape the cross bar. A minute later, Institute were in front. Darren McFadden’s free-kick took a touch off Matthew Carson en route to goal, giving Dylan McRandal no chance.

Matthew Gallagher in the ‘Stute goal kept his side in front with two excellent saves to deny Robbie White and Maguire.

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Five minutes before the break, Larne were level. Mark Picking found space on the right to pick out White, who swept the ball home. The last action of the half brought Larne’s second when Maguire picked up a cracking pass from Stuart King to deliver a clinical finish.

Larne were in control at this stage and extended their lead four minutes after the break. Confusion in the visitors’ defence allowed the alert Maguire to pounce and add his second.

Institute were then reduced to 10 men when Crossan was shown a second yellow for dissent. Larne added number four on 56 minutes. Josh McAllister set off down the flank and cut into the box before calmly lofting the ball over Gallagher.

The home side lost their shape and Stute reduced the deficit six minutes later. Darren McCauley was allowed too much space to cut the ball back for Declan McKeever to score.

The home supporters were then left in a sweat as the visitors added a third 11 minutes from time. This time, the roles were reversed as McKeever turned provider for McCauley to fire a low shot past McRandal.

Larne had chances to kill off the game late on as McAllister turned the ‘Stute defence inside out, but the final ball was wasted. Picking then delivered a cross onto the head of Maguire who was unlucky to see his header strike the upright.


Lisburn Distillery 1 Carrick Rangers 1

On a cold day at New Grosvenor stadium, Lisburn Distillery were back in league action against in-form side Carrick Rangers — a game between ninth and fourth place and both sets of supporters in full voice at the start of the game.

The game started off at a good pace but both sides were cautious of conceding an early goal and the game developed early on into a tight midfield battle in the middle of the park.

The Whites were playing nice on the deck possession football and Ben Browne nearly created something out of nothing as his floated in ball nearly dropped for Mikey Withers at the back post, but  Dermot McVeigh was on hand to clear the danger for the visitors.

Tommy Kincaid’s men started the game more lively as they had more of the ball, but not many chances were being created.

On 22 minutes, Carrick Rangers had a good chance when Anthony Lagan floated in the ball, nearly finding Connor McCluskey. The ball just went over his head, allowing Nixon to clear.

The home side then had a great chance on 33 minutes as a Jimmy McIlhagga floated in ball nearly found the head of Glen Upton but once again McVeigh was on hand to clear.

Lisburn Distillery started the second half with more urgency and had a good chance in the 48th minute following good link up play between Chris Kingsberry and Glen Upton, but his final cross was plucked out of the air by on-loan Linfield goalkeeper Gareth Deane.

Carrick then came closest to scoring in the 50th minute when a scorching volley by Aaron Harmon, the captain, beat Ryan McBride only to come crashing back of the post — a real let-off for Lisburn Distillery.

Ryan McBride then kept it level in the 56th minute as a long range free-kick by Ryan Burns skidded along the ground, the young ‘keeper making a low diving save before the ball broke to Connor McCluskey, his shot once again well saved by the goalkeeper.

McIlhagga then had a perfect chance for Distillery to put the ball in the net on in the 51st minute as Kris Pike’s cross found him in space, but he leaned back and volleyed over the bar.

Carrick then went straight up the other end of the pitch and won a corner, from which Richard Gibson volleyed a shot which looked destined for the net only for Chris Kingsberry to clear it off the line — another let off for the Whites.

They then had a decent effort of their own cleared off the line as a lovely ball by Browne found Kingsberry, Ian West the man in the right place to clear the danger. The game was now flowing much better as both sets of players went seeking a win, no doubt bolstered by their manager’s words at half time.

The rain was pouring down on the New Grosvenor pitch and Ryan McBride again made a great save as ex-Distillery man Ryan McCann fired in a shot from the edge of the box, the youngster getting down well to tip it behind for a corner.

Carrick Rangers were then reduced to 10 men on in the 79th minute as West got a second yellow card and received his marching orders for a tackle on Jimmy McIlhagga.

However, rather than getting a winner, the home team found themselves a goal down as Carrick Rangers took the lead in the 82nd minute, captain Aaron Harmon fizzing in a shot from outside the box into the bottom corner of the net.

Distillery, however, fought back and could have been level in the 88th minute as Ben Browne’s shot was too hot to handle for Deane, but he recovered just in time to grab the ball and keep the visitors in the lead.

However, late drama was still to unfold as Distillery levelled in the 90th minute as David Wright’s shot beat Deane and nestled into the net for the leveller.

Indeed, the same player thought he had won it in injury time as his header went into the net only for the offside flag to deny the Whites all three points.

And so yet another draw for the men from New Grosvenor, who have made a habit of that this season so far.


Dundela 0 H&W Welders 2

Dundela lost their unbeaten league record to a Welders side eager to avenge their home defeat at Tillysburn.

The game was evenly contested, but Dundela paid the price in the 32nd minute for missing three great chance, when McKay in the Dundela goal had the misfortune to knock the ball into his own net.

Straight from the kick-off, Dundela's McComb saw his header shave the outside of the Welders upright and wide.

The second half saw Dundela pressing hard for a goal, but the Welders defence managed to hold the fort, although at times with some luck.

The match was all over for the Duns in the 87th minute when a breakaway saw Burrows score from 18 yards into the corner of the net, giving McKay no chance.


Donegal Celtic 2 Limavady United 1

Limavady United's wretched luck in the league continued on Saturday, as they fell to a late wonder strike in a match which they had dominated for long periods, producing some fine football as some of the floodlights failed, putting the game in jeopardy.

With both sides needing the points and putting out young sides, expectations for an entertaining contest were low.

Added to that was the lack of firepower available to both sides. However, the game got off to a lively start, as United broke from kick-off, with Friel setting up Brown in the box, who back heeled to Heaney, whose shot was blocked.

Both sides were defying the conditions to produce some neat football, and United were shading things until the 15th minute, when DC won a free kick wide on the left.

Warwick floated the ball into the box, and it was not cleared, before reaching Templeton, who headed past the stranded McGraw for the opener.

The lead was nearly doubled within a minute, when only a fingertip save from McGraw at full stretch denied the home side.

The Roesiders were soon back on track, and nearly equalised in the 22nd minute, as Hassan burst through the back line, and tried an audacious chip over McErlean, but the keeper did well to clasp the ball.

Five minutes later, another neat passing move sliced open the home defence, but came to nothing as Friel hacked the ball wide. On the half hour, Harkin took a long throw on the right, reaching Brown in the box, whose neat flick was dropped by McErlean under pressure, but he dived on the loose ball.

Friel was next to go close, bursting through on goal before unleashing a chipped effort that skimmed off the top of the cross bar.

The  visitors grabbed a deserved equaliser in the 41st minute with the move of the game, a low cross across the box met by Harkin whose shot was going in anyway, but Devine made sure by turning the ball into the net past McErlean.

After the break, Friel had an early hooked effort from a wide angle, but his effort was blocked for a corner. Then, a long pass was threaded through to Wallace who found the net, but was flagged offside.

DC were much better now, and nearly scored in the 61st minute when McGraw had to race out of his box to clear. The ball broke to Todd, but he shot high and wide with the keeper out of his goal.

Substitute Kelly was lively, and nearly scored in the 64th minute, but was offside. DC also had strong claims for a penalty waved away, when the ball hit a hand in the box.

There was nearly a late winner in the 80th minute in freak circumstances. The floodlights on the far side of the pitch failed, but the game continued in semi-darkness.

Then, McGraw had to back pedal furiously to claw a long distance chip from Warwick out from under the bar. But with just seven minutes left, the stalemate was broken when Rossborough smashed an unstoppable volley from all of 30 yards past McGraw's flailing arm and into the net.

It was a goal to grace any game, but it was a knife through United's hearts. Nevertheless, if ever a defeat could be said to have positives, this one showed United can play good football, and with performances such as this, there are still grounds for hope.


Knockbreda 2 Ballyclare Comrades 0

A depleted Comrades side slipped to defeat on a cold and wet afternoon at Knockbreda despite putting on a spirited performance. 

Manager Eddie Hill had a nightmare ahead of this game, with eight first team squad players missing for various reasons, including ace striker Chris Trussell and captain Andrew Doyle.

Youngster Marc Rainey continued in the centre of defence, with player-coach Stuart McClean coming in at right-back. The manager had to name himself on the bench.

The home side were the first to come close in the second minute when a 20 yard free-kick struck by McCloskey forced a good save from Paddy Flood.

Two minutes later, a great run by Kyle Agnew ended with him firing in an effort from 16 yards, which keeper Neeson did well to turn round the base of the post. The sides were doing their best to entertain the crowd on a miserable day and the action flowed from end to end.

In the 12th minute, Knockbreda had a great chance when Chines capitalised on a lapse in the Comrades defence to advance free on goal, but his resulting effort from 12 yards was well saved by Paddy Flood.

With a quarter of an hour gone, the home side took the front when Comrades lost the ball in their own half and the ball was played to Atkinson, who finished well with a strike across the keeper from 12 yards.

Comrades reacted well to this set-back, and two minutes later they came close when Simon McGowan found Adam Gray on the left side of the box and he fired in a shot from 12 yards, which forced the keeper to make a smart save at his near post.

 Johnny McClurg got on the end of a free-kick from Simon McGowan in the 22nd minute, but his headed effort from an angle four yards out was kept out by another decent save from the keeper.

Seconds later, the keeper had a rather easier save to make when he smothered a well-struck effort from 14 yards from the lively Adam Gray.

In the 34th minute, Comrades almost benefited from a slip from the keeper as he almost let an innocuous effort directed towards goal by Kyle Agnew slip through his hands on the line, but he managed to recover and spare his embarrassment.

The visitors continued to impress going forward. In the 40th minute, another incisive move down the left ended with Adam Gray firing in a shot from 13 yards, but again the keeper kept the effort out.

The second half opened with a great chance for Comrades four minute in. Kyle Agnew got free on the right and sent in a cross to the far post, where Adam Gray was there to head back across the six yard box towards the Mark Wilkinson.

It looked as if the young striker would level the scores, but he headed over from four yards out. The visitors continued to press for an equaliser.

In the 57th minute, a superb tackle near the halfway line from Johnny McClurg won the ball for his side and set up Kyle Agnew to run at the home defence, but having opened up a good chance for himself, he fired a shot wide with his unfavoured left foot from 15 yards.

Daniel Smith was introduced as a substitute in the 65th minute, and with his first touch he blasted a fierce shot just over the bar from the edge of the box. While Comrades looked to get back on level terms, the home side always posed a threat.

In the 68th minute, a mistake in the Comrades defence presented a chance to striker Chines, but his low shot from nine yards was kept out by a fine save from Paddy Flood, who pushed the ball past the post.

However, two minutes later, the hosts grabbed the second and decisive goal when a Chines corner was headed in from close range at the far post by Adam Wright.

Knockbreda were now in a dominant position and despite their best efforts Comrades could not muster a serious threat on goal in the latter part of the game, despite manager Hill introducing himself to the action in the 79th minute.


Championship Two:

PSNI 3 Banbridge Town 1

It was back to league action after two weekends of cup matches. This re-arranged fixture turned out to be a duel between the two top teams in Championship Two.

Both sides knew that whoever won was likely to be top of the league into 2014.

The first few minutes saw the usual midfield play but on the first real attack by the PSNI in the fourth minute saw the ball fall to Peter Steele on the edge of the box.

He was closed down and the loose ball fell to a man who had just returned from a three month scholarship in the USA, JB Dobbin.

From all of 22 yards, his sweetly struck shot went into the bottom left of the Banbridge goal, and this set the pace for the rest of the half.

Wave after wave of PSNI pressure saw the Banbridge defence defending well, and in particular, their keeper Stephen Cairnduff pulled off great save after great save.

It was no surprise when he went down near the end of the half from what looked like exhaustion! At the other end, Keith Wilson, back in the PSNI goals, had little to worry about.

The second half started similar to the first, with the PSNI determined to stretch their lead. Matty Holden fed Steele with the perfect through ball in the 47th minute and he made no mistake with a great strike from the edge of the box to make it 2–0.

The PSNI had some 80% of the play but failed to turn that possession into goals, whereas  Banbridge were always dangerous on the break, but in the final quarter of the field, they failed to really test Wilson, until the 52nd minute.

Jonny Kernaghan found himself with time and space inside the PSNI 18 yard box, and he made no mistake.

The remainder of the half saw the PSNI dominate play, and again missing the target after great approach play.

Banbridge continued to be dangerous on the break, but the PSNI defence snuffed out any real threat.

A very hard-working Steele proved to be a thorn in the side of the Banbridge defence and in the 67th minute he was brought down on the edge of the box.

The resulting kick led to another great save from Cairnduff.  A PSNI corner in the 71st minute saw the ball rattle the bar.

With the PSNI living on their nerves of a Banbridge comeback, it was that man Steele again who finally settled it for the PSNI. He was gifted the perfect ball from Colm Kirgan down the right wing in the 90th minute and, as Steele raced for goal, everyone expected him to pass to others waiting on edge of the six-yard box. Instead, he chipped  Cairnduff and made the game safe for the PSNI.

The PSNI will finish 2013 as Championship Two leaders, but  with still a long way to go.


Annagh United 3 Tobermore United 1

Adam Nesbitt should have scored in only the first minute when he pulled his effort wide when one on one with Wells.

The same player proved a handful for the visitors as he had two further efforts within 10 minutes.

In the 12th minute, Shea Campbell scored from Riddle’s accurate cross, while ex-Annagh man Marty Hughes’ headed effort was well saved by Annagh’s Wright.

Shea Campbell beat Wells to a high ball in the 18th minute and Ryan Murphy slotted home from eight yards. Annagh went three ahead after only 25 minutes when Campbell bagged a brace from the spot after Ally Burns judged that Pentland had been fouled in the area.

Two minutes later, Hughes struck Wright’s near post and McCann forced Wells into a smart save just after.

With three minutes to the half time whistle, some poor marking let Karl Steele head past Wright from a corner, giving the visitors a glimmer of hope.

The second half was a quieter affair. Annagh dug deep and restricted Tobermore to one effort on goal, which Stephen Acheson cleared off the line.

Annagh’s efforts came via Pentland, McCann, skipper Latimer and Campbell, whose header went just over the bar, denying him his hat-trick.

Annagh now head confidently into the traditional festive derby home to Lurgan Celtic, whose management team were keen observers at today's game.

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