Derriaghy CC manager Paul Ewart believes the Clarence Cup can provide a positive – but not unhelpful – distraction from their league aspirations, after his side booked their place in round four with a 5-3 win over Bangor Amateurs on Saturday.
The Seycon Park men, who won this competition back in 2012, have a chance to repeat that glory again this year as one of the top-ranked teams still in the reckoning, but Ewart isn’t concerning himself too much with that. He has his priorities well mapped out.
Ewart said: “This cup is a welcome distraction, but this is a transitional season for us, and our only priority is to stay in the Premier Division. I only took over the team a few weeks ago, and we lost a lot of our players from the start of the season… it’s really a whole new team.
“Today wasn’t a classic, but it was a typical Amateur League game. I think the pitch and the weather played a big part in it, but I am just glad we were able to get the game on.
“We were 5-1 up and cruising, but the sending off of our keeper and the penalty conceded meant that we spent the last part of the game defending. But we made it through, and now we’ll just take each game as it comes.”
All the early pressure was going Derriaghy’s way, and it was fitting – if somewhat fortuitous – that they took the lead in the 12th minute, as a cross from Thomas Fletcher fooled everyone and flew into the top right hand corner.
At the other end, Gavin Munn was sent clear through on goal, but Andrew Wallace did well to save his powerful shot from 20 yards.
For Derriaghy, Fletcher was involved once again on 19 minutes, when his clearance found Neil Graham In a dangerous position, but the striker’s first attempt on goal was well saved by David Moore, and his second was blasted wide. Moments after this, Graham cut the ball back to Neil Johnson, but with him leaning back, the ball was always travelling over the target.
However, the visitors weren’t in the mood for wasting any more chances when another came their way in the 31st minute. The Amateurs failed to clear a corner from Marty Verner, and the ball trickled to the back post for Chris Patterson, who found the net with ease.
Five minutes later, a rare defensive lapse from Derriaghy allowed Ryan Mann to pick out Andrew McIntyre, but the latter screwed his shot wide.
The Amateurs did manage to claw back some of the deficit on the stroke of half time, with Ryan Tumelty chesting down the ball in the box, before swivelling to fire a real beauty into the top left corner.
With their spirits lifted, it seemed the Division 1C side might have plans of a revival – but Derriaghy had other ideas, as they regained their two-goal cushion within five minutes of the restart. The tireless Graham was on-hand to fire in from the rebound after Verner’s previous effort had been tipped away.
The Amateurs were deflated, but not discouraged, as Wallace had to parry clear an in-swinging corner from Mann, and save a low drive from Craig Patterson with his feet to keep it from creeping inside the near post.
Yet any faint hopes the home side harboured of a comeback were completely dashed in the 67th minute, with Graham’s neat close-range finish, to extend Derriaghy’s advantage to three.
The Amateurs didn’t allow their heads to drop, and Craig Patterson had a powerful attempt parried off the post by the fantastic Wallace soon after the goal. But once again, it was the Premier Division outfit taking their chances, and they were 5-1 ahead by the 73rd minute as Graham took the ball past two defenders before knocking into the top right hand corner to complete a superb hat-trick.
That should probably have been that, yet with little more than 10 minutes remaining, Wallace earned a straight red card after he was adjudged to have brought down Dwayne Beattie in the box.
In went make-shift keeper Verner between the sticks, and up stepped Gavin Munn for the penalty, which he tucked away with confidence.
The Amateurs realised they were too far behind to get themselves back in the game at this late stage, but it didn’t stop them from trying. Indeed, Verner pulled off impressive saves from Beattie and Munn towards the end, although was unable to keep out Christopher Reaney’s acrobatic volley from Mann’s free kick with the last action of this eventful game.
Amateurs boss Jonathan Busby later stated: “No matter what level of the game you play at, you can’t defend like we did today and expect to win.
“I could make excuses for players being out at the moment, but the ones who were there were good enough to compete and didn’t do their jobs… and it cost us.”
MAN OF THE MATCH: Neil Graham (Derriaghy CC). An easy choice, and a well deserved hat-trick.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: It may not have earned Bangor Amateurs any points, but Ryan Tumelty’s strike at the end of the match was top drawer.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Andrew Wallace parrying off the post from Craig Patterson’s attempt midway through the second half.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: As well as he played, Andrew Wallace helped Bangor Amateurs make the score-line more respectful and from their perspective with his sending off.
David Moore: Will have better afternoons. 5
Gregg Fleming: Second to the ball on a few occasions. 5
Jason McKeague: Passing could have been better. 5
Kris McWilliams: Played through the pain barrier, at least. 6
Christopher Reaney: Fantastic volley at the end definitely his highlight. 7
Phillip McKnight: A reasonably quiet match. 6
Ryan Mann: Decent service from set-pieces. 7
Ryan Tumelty: Showed great technique, particularly with his goal. 8
Andrew McIntyre: Not at his best, but always made himself available. 6
Craig Patterson: Unlucky not to have been amongst the goals. 6
Gavin Munn: Took his penalty well. 7
Trevor Kennedy: On for Fleming, 68
Dwayne Beattie: On for McKnight, 45
Richard Barr: On for McKeague, 68
Andrew Wallace: A great performance marred with a red card. 6
Thomas Fletcher: Defended well and got his team off the mark. 8
Andrew Dickson: Held nothing back. 7
Eamon Cregan: A steady contribution. 7
Nathan Campbell: Looked in control throughout. 8
Chris Patterson: A calming influence in the centre. 8
Justin Armstrong: Got forward well. 7
Dee Elliott: Put in a decent shift. 7
Marty Verner: Useful outfield…and in goal! 7
Neil Graham: Tremendous work-rate earned him a hat-trick. 9
Neil Johnson: An attacking threat. 7
Clarke Murray: On for D Elliott, 45
Jamie Kidd: On for Graham, 75
William Elliott: Not used