Valentine's weekend win lifts Knockbreda hearts as Crumlin crash out
Raymond Bell may not exactly have been writing love letters about his team’s first half display, but in the end, his Knockbreda side had the class to deliver a Valentine’s weekend victory to give their supporters an Intermediate Cup quarter-final date to set their pulses racing.
This is a competition held dear by the Breda Park faithful, who celebrated the finest moment in their Amateur League era with the team lifting this trophy in 2009. Now, as a Championship One club, their hunger for silverware is no less, but Bell insists he is not interested in reliving past glories.
He said: “History is history – you can’t change it and you can’t repeat it. Colin (Russell) and the board have made tremendous strides here, with the opening of a new 3G pitch adding to the great facilities we have, so we have to keep doing well on the pitch.
“Cup runs are nice, and of course I would love if we could win the Intermediate Cup, but our priority this year is to be in the top 10 and remain in Championship One – there is a lot at stake, both financially and in terms of our status.
“If I’m honest, I thought we were lucky to come in 1-0 up at half time. We lost our discipline in terms of shape, there were too many gaps at the back, and our ball retention and passing was poor. I told a lot of the players a few home truths at half time, and I think we were more dominant and our fitness told in the second half.
“But I want to give massive credit to (Crumlin boss) Paddy Kelly and his team – they gave us a really good game today.”
The amateurs’ positivity was clear from the outset as they attempted to hit their opponents for six early on, as Eamon Kelly knocked a dangerous ball in to the back post, but Matthew King cleared it to safety.
Knockbreda were denied twice in quick succession by Crumlin keeper Mark McKeown – firstly parrying over a thumping effort from Jordan Hughes, then when he spilled the ball from a Stephen Cockroft, but with Kyle Owens looming large, he quickly recovered it to his grasp.
The home side took the lead, somewhat fortuitously, in the 13th minute. In a moment’s panic, whilst trying to clear a free kick from Jordan Hughes, Crumlin captain Gerard Keenan somehow managed to lob the ball into the roof of his own net.
They could well have been two goals to the good in the 22nd minute, but McKeown was quick out of his box to pressure Owain Beggs into a shot wide from Eamon Hughes’ defence-splitting pass. Seconds after this, Richard Gibson had much more time to pick his spot, however, was well off-target with his skewed attempt.
But from here, it was Crumlin who were unlucky not to score, and perhaps even, take the lead.
An Eamon Kelly free kick was well saved by Ryan McBride, while a bobbling effort from Patrick McCafferty was deflected out of play.
Then, in the 33rd minute, Ryan Gorman weaved his way through the Knockbreda defence and looked as though he might try a shot himself, but played to Ian Brownlees, whose strike was redirected out for a corner. Gary Dyer went down in the box when the ball came in, but referee Paul Burns dismissed his penalty claims.
The chances continued to stack up for Crumlin, with McBride remarkably saving with his knee in a one-on-one with the clean-through Kelly, while on 43 minutes, Gorman lobbed the keeper impressively, but unfortunately for him, it went wide of the target by a whisker.
Knockbreda knew they had been let of the hook, and did their best to pile more pressure on the away side with a second goal.
A Jordan Hughes free kick drifted harmlessly wide, a neat one-two between Matthew Johnson and Beggs ended with the latter producing a stunning save from McKeown at his near post, and David McMaster struck a cross into the box when no-one was there, when a shot would have been better advised.
By the 62nd minute, Knockbreda had the all-important second goal they had been craving. Cockroft swept the ball in to the back post and in ran McMaster to poke it over the line.
This was undeniably the game’s major turning point, and seemed to take a lot out of Crumlin, who now looked like a team facing a major uphill task. That task was put beyond their reaches in the 74th minute when Jordan Hughes surged, unchallenged, towards goal before unleashing a thunderbolt into the bottom right hand corner.
Despite some disappointment with the final result, Crumlin manager Kelly left with his head held high.
“You’d have to say that we looked like the Championship team in the first half,” he remarked. “It wouldn’t have been an injustice if we had been 4 or 5-0 up at that stage. We weren’t coming down to make up the numbers and went about the game in the right way.
“We made a mistake with their first goal, but it was the second that killed us. Now we’ll just concentrating on finishing as high up our league as possible, and getting a run in the Clarence Cup. We got to the semi-final last season, so it’d be great to go all the way this time round.”
MAN OF THE MATCH: Jordan Hughes (Knockbreda). Had a part to play in two of the goals, and always on the front foot.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: David McMaster’s strike on 62 minutes was unquestionably the turning point of this game.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Ryan McBride’s save (with his knee) in a first half one-on-one with Eamon Kelly.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: Gerard Keenan’s own goal sent Knockbreda on their way to the Intermediate Cup quarter-finals.
Ryan McBride: An impressive clean sheet. 8
Matthew King: A decent defensive display. 7
Stephen Cockroft: Looked switched on from the start. 8
Andrew Ferguson: Did all that was asked of him. 7
Kyle Owens: Strong in the air. 7
Eamon Hughes: Showed great vision with his passing. 8
David McMaster: Always made himself available down the right. 8
Matthew Johnson: Did the simple things well. 7
Richard Gibson: Shooting could have been sharper. 6
Owain Beggs: Good link-up play with Hughes. 7
Jordan Hughes: Carried plenty of goal threat. 8
Daniel Burns: On for Gibson, 60
David Johnson: On for K Johnson, 77
Emmett Templeton: On for E Hughes, 60
Michael Halliday: Not used
Paddy Donnelly: Not used
Mark McKeown: Not a bad effort, despite conceding three. 7
Dan McGarry: Made a few important last-ditch challenges. 7
Ciaran Docherty: Chased down every loose ball. 7
Gerard Keenan: Own-goal was unfortunate blip on otherwise decent performance. 7
Patrick O’Kane: A reasonably quiet game. 6
Eamon Kelly: Nothing was a lost cause. 8
Gary Dyer: Tirelessly energetic. 7
Patrick McCafferty: A workman-like display. 6
Patrick McIlKenny: Corner taking was a speciality. 7
Ian Brownlees: Held the ball up well on occasion. 7
Ryan Gorman: Showed flashes of individual brilliance. 8
Conor McGuigan: On for McCafferty, 73
Conor Mahoney: On for McIlkenny, 63
Sean Carson: On for O’Kane, 78
Belfast Telegraph Digital