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  • Writer's pictureMichael Barritt

Ards 0 H&W Welders 1 – Match Report














NIFL Playr-Fit Championship – 26/02/24

By Phillip Bartlett

 

ARDS PAY THE PENALTY AS WINLESS RUN CONTINUES

H&W Welders secure all 3 points in a turgid affair that will be soon be forgotten by those in attendance.

 


Next up, no easy games for us in this league


Ards welcomed 6th placed H&W Welders to Clandeboye Park for the 3rd meeting of the sides this season with Ards currently unbeaten against the East Belfast outfit. A 1-1 draw in the first fixture was followed up by arguably Ards best performance of the season at Blanchflower Park when we ran out 3-0 winners. Ards are currently on an 11-game run without a league win however, stretching back to November last year and a 4-0 win against the current league leaders Dundela. Having reached a new season low last week, suffering a shock defeat to bottom of the table Knockbreda everyone associated with the club will be looking for a response today with the situation at the bottom of the table looking very bleak indeed. The Welders are on a bit of an up and down run themselves at present, having won 4 and lost 3 in their last 7 league fixtures, but still sit 4 places and an impressive 17 points above Ards in the standings before kick-off.

 

Several changes for Ards from the 11 that started against Knockbreda last week as Michael Ruddy, Adam McCallum, Aidan Steele, Patrick Cafolla and Callum Dougan all find themselves on the bench alongside Guillaume Keke and Max Miller. Matt Gorman, George Tipton, Corai Quinn, Max Greer and Ross Hunter were all brought into the starting 11 as manager John Bailie looks to find his preferred lineup. Neil Shields keeps his spot in goal as Alex Moore continues to recover from injury, while Odhran McCart carries on left of a back three following a promising start to his Ards career. Plenty of well-known faces in the opposition with the Welders new signing Dylan O’Kane straight into the side linking up with former Ards men Craig Harris and Michael McLellan, all with hopes of putting one over on their old side. Also eventually figured out that their #1 Jack Mills was formerly Jack Lemoignan who had a short loan spell at Ards a few seasons back.


Ross Hunter, returning to the starting lineup having missed out last week

 

A Michael McLellan second half penalty was enough to take all 3 points in a game that certainly will not live long in the memory, neither side offering very much throughout the 90+ minutes. The first 45 was very drab and lifeless, neither side getting on top and dominating the game and few chances being created at either end of the park. Having ended goalless at the break there was hope that some football might break out after the restart but, if possible, the second half, despite getting to witness a goal, was even more disappointing than the first with a real lack of creativity coming from both teams as the sides seemed to cancel each other out somewhat. There were countless free kicks and corners for both sides as they looked to make something happen but all too often the delivery was poor, failing to beat the first man or lofted up allowing for an easy clearance for the opposing defence. Truth be told the only goal of the game coming from the penalty spot was no great surprise as there was little to no danger of either side grabbing one from open play. The final whistle eventually came after the 5 additional minutes were added on, and despite a spirited last few minutes, where Ards pushed to try and salvage something from the game, the Welders clearly left the field the happier team.

 

It was a great day for a game of football, the weather doing its part to brighten up a somewhat dreary season for the RABA in attendance, unfortunately the performance and game in general did little to nothing to inspire. It was a poor start for the home side as they lost George Tipton through injury in the opening 5 minutes, Aidan Steele having to replace the midfield man in the opening minutes of the game. Outside of a handful of corners for either side, which ultimately led to nothing, the first 30 minutes went by with limited goal mouth action, neither keeper really tested or called into action at all. It was an attritional game with most of the action confined to the middle of the pitch, neither side able to control the game as they would have hoped from the off.


Aidan Steele was an early introduction from the bench as G Tipton had to be carried off

 

The game did get a bit of a spark just after the half hour mark, Tiarnan O’Connor getting on the end of a Ewan McCoubrey corner from the Welders right. It was their second corner in a minute, the first being a bit of waste but garnering a second chance on the other side. O’Connor made a good run, got decent contact on the ball but was unable to direct it goalwards to test Shields, heading it well wide of the far post. That livened Ards up a bit as they hit back shortly after with their best move of the game. A couple of short passes across the back before Hunter was put through, he controlled it well and ran at the Welders back line. Cutting inside he looked to find space for a shot but was faced with too many obstacles instead playing the side pass to Scannell. Once again, the stand in Ards captain tried to create some space for an effort on goal but the Welders stood up to him well allowing McCoubrey time to get back and nip in to clear the ball for an Ards corner. Great flowing move, shame we were unable to produce an effort on goal at the end. The resulting corner was floated in by Steele, looking for Hunter at the back post. Picked him out well but his shot on goal, while well directed, was pretty tame and an easy take for the Welders Keeper Mills (formerly Lemoignan and formerly of Ards).

 

In the context of the game so far, the last 15 minutes was practically barn storming, but in reality, both sides had one attempt on goal, the Welders looking to strike late in the half through former Ards midfielder Dylan O’Kane as he shot from distance while Ards looked to capitalise on a good move wide right to setup Lee Newell with a headed chance at the back post. O’Kane’s effort, after a great passing build up, was very tame and easily saved by Shields whereas Newell was unable to get over the high ball to get his header on target, sending it harmlessly over the bar with Mills hurriedly trying to cover the ground across goal. The ref brought the meagre offerings to a close as the additional minute of time added on was completed.

 

No changes for Ards at the break, the same 11 take to the field after the interval. Ards get the game going looking to start where they left off at the end of the first half.



 

More of the same for the opening 10 minutes of the second half, the fans hoping for a much-improved showing further disappointed. It took until the 52nd minutes for our first attack of the second period, and to be fair it was a good effort, well worked and executed by Scannell. The stand in skipper picked the ball up on the right from Greer and waited for the ball to transfer to his left boot before hitting a decent strike goalwards. Looking to catch Mills out by taking it early, he dragged the shot the wrong side of the post. Good idea but the shot was narrowly wide of the upright. A positive note for the home side, something to build on as the half progressed.

 

The Welders were also guilty of being very wasteful when presented with good opportunities in their attacking 3rd. A free kick was awarded some 30 yards from goal, dead centre, after a late challenge by Ryan Arthur. O’Connor takes, smashes it straight into the wall and Ards can complete the clearance. A couple of minutes later they were handed a corner on the right, but the same result. Simple ball in, simple ball for Ards to defend and get it up the other end. I’m not sure if it was a stroke of fortune or the result of the limited pressure the Welders had been applying but not 60 seconds later, they were awarded a penalty, Corai Quinn adjudged to have handled in the area off a Ewan McCoubrey cross, referee no doubt in his mind despite the Ards protests. It was hit hard and there wasn’t much distance between the players, but it struck the left hand of Quinn which appears to be in an ‘unnatural position’. Penalty given, McLellan then moved the quickest I saw him all game to go get the ball, leaving no doubt as to who was hitting it. The ex-Ards forward stepped up and made no mistake from 12 yards out. 1-0 to the visitors just past the hour mark.

 

Ards now with it all to do but while we have shored things up at the back somewhat over the last few games, goals have been hard to come by. Chances again were there as we won several second half corners but the delivery and the movement in the box was lacking, and we allowed the Welders to clear with ease on every occasion. It was either too close to the keeper, allowing for an easy take or punch clear, or was lofted high allowing Kyle Owens all the time in the world to win and clear. The Welders had their noses in front and seemed content to sit back and see the game out, so it was up to those in red and blue to find a way through their lines, but nothing materialised.


Ards' Ethan Taggart trying to make something happen for the home side

 

On the 85th minutes, time quickly running out for the hosts, the Welders would have been 2-0 in front if not for a great piece of goalkeeping by Neil Shields to deny McLellan his and the Welders 2nd of the game. The Welders broke quickly, substitute Oisin Barr playing a quick ball through to Joshua Kee to run on to. The Welders man carried the ball forward before playing a delightful through ball to pick out McLellan’s run. The Welders striker, through on goal with just Shields to beat, got there first but Shields was quickly out and smothered the shot before gathering at the second attempt. It looked a certain goal and the game all but over, but Shields did really well to make the save and give Ards some hope.

 

Unfortunately, that hope didn’t materialise into anything tangible as Ards struggles to create anything outwardly decent continued. With 5 mins time added on there was still the possibility but apart from a free kick some 40 yards from goal, we were unable to put any real pressure on the Welders in the closing stages. After the 5 minutes were up referee Ryan Hanna brought the game to an end and extended Ards winless run in the league to 12 games 9 of which have ended in defeat.

 

To add insult to injury our nearest rivals in the lower reaches Dergview managed a late turn around in their early kick off against Knockbreda to reduce the gap to 4 points with 2 games in hand. We have some tough fixtures coming up before the split, including hosting Dergview at Clandeboye Park, so while it’s no time to panic, it’s certainly time to have a wee look over our shoulder with a view to remaining in this league next season. If we continue to play like that I fail to see where the points will come from. There have been improved performances and some results could have gone the other way, but we are where we are over the course of the whole season and need to start getting points on the board.


Welders take all 3 points after a forgetable game

 

Next up a mid-week away trip to Newington at their new home Inver Park Larne. Ards got a real harsh lesson last time we travelled there, hopefully we have learnt from it and can pull something out of the bag. With 4 defeats and 2 wins in their last 6 games they have their own struggles but will be looking a repeat of last time out. They currently occupy the spot above us in the table but with a massive 14-point discrepancy, all we can do as supporters is remain positive and support the team as we try to build for the remainder of this campaign and begin to look to next season.

 

 

Starting Line-up:

Shields, Gorman, Arthur, McCart, Quinn, E Scannell, Tipton, Taggart, Greer, Hunter, Newell

 

Substitutes:

McCallum, Ruddy, Cafolla, Dougan, Miller, Steele, Keke



 


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