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  • Writer's pictureMichael Barritt

Annagh United 0 Ards 0 – Match Report

NIFL Playr-Fit Championship – 19/08/23

By Phillip Bartlett

Deadlock at the BMG

Ards have their first point on the board after a hard fought draw away to league leaders

Ards head into match day 3 on the back of two opening defeats and it doesn’t get any easier as we travel to the BMG Arena to take on the current league leaders. Having been on the wrong end of the result in the first North Down derby for 7 years last time out, there will be real pressure on the side to come away with any kind of positive result. Ards did have the upper hand over Annagh last season taking 9 points from the 4 encounters, a late Adam Salley winner giving us all 3 points on our last visit to the BMG so reasons to be positive. The fortunes of the sides early on couldn’t be different with the hosts enjoying a 100% start while Ards have yet to register a point, even the most understanding of supporters will be demanding a performance.

Once again manager Matthew Tipton rings the changes in personnel as he works towards finding his best 11. Aidan Steele returns to the starting line-up, somewhat unfortunate to have missed out last week after impressing in pre-season and being one of the best performers against Newington in the opening game of the season. Ross Hunter and Eaman Scannell come in to complete the line up as Jamal Dupree, James McLaughlin and DeeDee McAllister drop to the bench. There is consistency across the back line as the defence remains unchanged for the 3rd game in a row as Greer, McCallum, Ruddy and Maxwell are named in front of Ards no 1 Alex Moore. Significant changes to the formation with Ards opting for 2 holding midfielders and the lone striker of Ross Hunter being supported by 3 across the middle. A couple of familiar faces in the opposition as ex-Ards keeper Jason Craughwell starts in goal for Annagh and fan favourite Conal Young starting on the bench having left Ards at the end of the season to link up with Ciaran McCurgan at Annagh.

Max Greer challenges in the right back spot. Ever present in the starting line up since his summer move from Larne

No goals in this one despite both sides having periods of dominance throughout the 90+ minutes. On the balance of play I expect Annagh will be the more disappointed not to have taken all 3 points after a 1st half display where they pressed Ards back and had them on the ropes for the most. A combination of good saves by Alex Moore and some wastefulness from the home side meant it was goalless at the break. Ards lifted themselves towards the end of the half and started to give Craughwell in the Annagh goal something to think about, Ross Hunter being the focal point in attack seeing a lot of the ball late on. It was a much more even game in the second half, Ards carrying on where they left off just before the break, looking to get behind the high line of the Annagh defence. Ards probably shaded the second half, but Annagh weren’t without their chances as well but neither side able to find that all important goal to take all 3 points. The game finished 0-0 after time added on, Ards taking a very valuable point home considering that which had come before.

Annagh took control of the game from minute one pressing Ards back straight from the kick off, Kris Calvert testing Moore in the Ards goal in just the 3rd minute of the game. It was a routine save for the Ards #1 but signalled the intent of the home side and the match carried on in much the same vein for the opening half hour, Ards struggling to get any sort of hold on the ball. Annagh’s new man Ryan Swan, signed from Warrenpoint in the summer, was proving very dangerous cutting through the middle and outside left. Lee Upton went closest to breaking the deadlock early on, as he saw his half volley from the back post go inches over the bar. The conditions playing a part there as the Annagh corner played in was held up by the wind, Moore only able to palm it out to the edge of the 6-yard box where Upton was waiting. It was a good connection but fortunately for Ards just over the bar.

With the pressure building Ards weren’t helping themselves conceding unnecessary free kicks in dangerous areas allowing Annagh to pick their spots. Evans and Carville both guilty of being wasteful from set pieces sending their efforts well wide of the target, much to Ards relief. Annagh United did have the ball in the back of the net just before the half hour mark, Stephen Murray racing beyond the back line latching onto the through ball and slotting it past Moore into the net. The home sides joy was cut short as the far side official indicated Murray was offside. A very tight call from where I was but 0-0 the score much to the amusement of the travelling RABA.

Taggart shows his disappointment after sending his effort wide of the post

I’m not sure if that disallowed effort sparked something in the Ards side but there was a definite turn around, holding on to the ball, moving it faster and finally getting up the other end of the park. Ards with their first real chance of the game on 30’, a free kick awarded just left of centre about 30 yards from goal. Maxwell took the free kick, playing it out wide for Scannell. His ball in picked out Taggart whose shot was goal-bound but Carville was there to make a good block allowing Annagh to clear. Ards were clearly buoyed by this foray into the opposition half and went close to taking a very unexpected lead less than 5 minutes later. Max Greer picked the ball up wide right and sends in a brilliant cross to the Annagh box. Scannell read it well but was unable to direct it on target sending it beyond the back post. Aidan Steele was on hand to collect the second ball and keep it alive. His cross found Taggart who looks to side foot the ball into the far corner but puts it just wide of the post.

Controversial moment and huge call from the referee on 42’ as Moore comes out of his area to try and win a ball played over the top. Ryan Swan gets there first, knocks the ball over the onrushing keeper and is clattered to the floor by Moore as he tried to nip round the other side. The referee shows the Ards keeper a yellow and awards the free kick much to the complaints of the Annagh United players in attendance. It looked to all the world that a red card was coming but the officials must have seen enough to decide on yellow. The resultant freekick was another wasted opportunity for the home side and Ards able to regroup. With 4 mins time added on at the end of the half Annagh were afforded one final chance to open the scoring, Ryan Swan once again sent through on goal. Moore was off his line quickly putting Swan under pressure and deflecting the effort over the bar. Another close call just before the break, great goalkeeping by Moore.

The 4 mins time added on were up and the referee took us into the interval. No changes for Ards at the break and Annagh get the game going again.

Huge call early on in the second half as Ards break into the box, Tipton’s perfect cross picked out Hunter, but it appeared that he was hauled to the floor under challenge. It looked a clear foul from the side-lines, but the officials waved away any protests allowing Annagh to carry the ball clear. Ards unperturbed by this carried on on the front foot, Eamon Scannell trying his luck from distance wide on the left. A well hit curling effort with the outside of the left boot, but there was just a bit too much on it and it bent just past the post with Craughwell beat. Excellent technique on the shot from Scannell.

Ross Hunter had a tough day leading the line for Ards today. Excellent performance

The side swapped chances as the half progressed, Carville showing his class with a brilliantly weighted ball to the back post, Upton controlled before firing across goal but sent it just wide of the top corner. Ards hit back immediately after, Ross Hunter put through one-on-one with Craughwell, with just the keeper to beat he opted to try and lift it over the keeper where he may have been better suited keeping it on the ground. Craughwell stayed tall and was able to dive to his left to make the save. Both defences were being kept on their toes in what had become a decent end to end game but neither side able to find that all important goal. What Ards would do for a bit of luck go in their favour, Annagh the recipients today on 76’ as Jason Craughwell’s clearance cannoned off Aidan Steele but instead of deflecting into an open net, much as Newington’s 3rd goal against Ards in the season opener did, it spilled harmlessly wide of the goal where Annagh were able to clear up field. It was great work By Steele, initially put through by Dougan. The ball was laid off to the keeper by Upton, but Steele didn’t give up and continued his run putting him under pressure to draw out the error.

Steele was in the spotlight again as we neared the end of the game, presented with a brilliant chance to steal all 3 points right at the death. Greers’ deep cross found Steele who’d escaped his marker and was alone at the back post. With just the keeper to beat he tried to poke it past him but found the outside of the post. It looked like the keeper had got something on it but the referee awarded a goal kick. A further 4 minutes time added on to this one as Ards pressed looking to steal the win but not to be. The ref called time on the game after 5 additional mins had elapsed, 0-0 the final score.

Aidan Steele nearly steals it at the death, going close at the back post

In the context of the season a great point away from home at the current league leaders. In the context of the game a very good point as Ards could well have been out of the game in the first half had Annagh been more clinical with their finishing. Positive signs for Ards, their first point of the season and their first clean sheet along with it. On a more negative note, Ards have only netted once in the opening 3 games but Ross Hunter deservers all the plaudits for his efforts in this game, playing the difficult role as lone striker with minimal support up against a strong, tough tackling back line before being replaced by Dougan on 75.

Ards return home for match day 4 as we host H&W Welders at Clandeboye park in a rearranged Friday night fixture. The Welders have started well taking 6 points from their opening 3 matches as Ards go in search of their first victory of the season. Ards had good success against the Welders last year and will be looking to carry that into this set of fixtures.

Starting Line-up:

Moore, Greer, McCallum, Ruddy (c), Maxwell, Cafolla, Taggart(82), Tipton, Steele, Hunter(75), E Scannell(82)


Shields, Gorman, Dupree(82), McAllister, C Scannell(82), Dougan(75), McLaughlin

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