NIFL Championship – 19/04/22
By Phillip Bartlett
Ards ‘out Dunne’ in turgid end of season affair
Home matches done; two away fixtures remain until we can finally bring this season to an end. While Ards have very little to play for in these two games, they will have a big say in the final positions at the bottom as we still have to travel to Knockbreda and Queens, who are fighting it out for the relative safety of 11th position and playoff chance to stay in the NIFL Championship next year. While this season continues, I expect the Ards management team to already have one eye on next season and a multitude of player comings and goings.
Final meeting with Institute for 21/22 with the spoils currently even, 1 win each and a draw on the record, both teams go into the game looking to tip the scales in their favour. After a worrying spell earlier in the season Institute have done well to get themselves out of trouble at the bottom of the league and find themselves in the relative safety of 9th after a consistent run of late. Ards made several changes going into this one, including starting places for two youth team players Jay Boyd and Luke Thompson. Boyd grabbed his senior debut on Friday away to Ballyclare and follows that up this week with his first start. There was room on the bench for another two youth players with Jacob Duckett and Edan Bavelock being brought into the fold. Paddy Cafolla was given the captains armband for this one with Arthurs on the bench and TJ Murray watching from the side-lines.
There are some matches that live long the memory, exciting attacking play, intricate passing moves, robust defensive displays, unfortunately this game had none of these and will be very quickly relegated to the ‘one to forget pile’. From the off it had the feel of an end of season game with nothing on the line for either side and it didn’t improve as it went on. There were fleeting moments of good play from both sides and at times the crowd were hopeful that a game might break out, but it never amounted to much. Plenty of effort and determination from both sides but the quality was really lacking. There was little to separate the teams with a solitary goal from Stutes’ Jamie Dunne in the 71st minute sealing the 3 points and making the long trip home to the Northwest that more enjoyable.
Jay Boyd and Kyle Calderwood had Ards two best chances of the first half the former going close on 15’. It was one of the better moments of the half that saw Reynolds and Scannell linking up really well in the middle of the park. The ball was played out to Donnelly on the left and he’s sent a dangerous cross into the box. Boyd was on his toes and managed to get across the front of Connolly in the Stute goal to meet the ball first. His side footed effort was put over the bar just before the linesman intervened with an offside flag. Excellent work by Boyd showing great instincts in the box. Calderwood had a couple of moments to forget in this one but could have been the home hero on 38’ when the met a corner at the back post. His header was put round the wrong side of the post. Arguably should have scored, brilliant ball in and great movement to find space at the back post.
Based on the balance of play and the chances create Institute would probably have felt aggrieved not to have been leading at the break. The best chance of the half came on 26’ for the away team when Calderwood got himself mixed up rather than making a clearance ended up playing the ball straight to Parkhill on the edge of the 18yd box. The striker picked his spot, but Bam was quickly off his line narrowing the angle and forcing the attacker to try and put it round him and he’s managed to make a great block. Institute had another couple of half chances, but Bam was untroubled. After 2 mins times added on, the ref blew up to end the half.
No changes for Ards at half time, the players emerged after the break and Ards got the second half underway.
The second half had restarted but seemingly someone forgot to tell the two teams as the opening 10 mins were pretty underwhelming for both sets of fans. After that slow opening there were great chances for both teams to get on the scoresheets, first for Ards and Reynolds who on 53’ found himself through one-on-one with Connolly. Reynolds had the ball under control as Connolly advanced off his line, the Ards front man had time to pick his spot but lifted it high and wide of the goal with the keeper close to the edge of the 18yd box in no-mans land. It was a quick Ards break with Crane winning the ball in Ards own box, quick ball through to Donnelly in the middle of the park who fed Reynolds in with an excellently weighted pass. Another good move by Ards, but the finish was again lacking. Ards then gifted Stute a similar chance on 59’. A long ball played from their right back area was misjudged by Crane. Parkhill was able to collect having made the run behind the back line. The Institute new man found himself one-on-one with Bam and rather than try and lift the ball over the keeper, he’s opted for more power, but the result was the same, over the bar. Ards let off there, the defending was poor, caught out by a single long ball.
That chance should have been a wake-up call for Ards but there were still holes at the back and Institute finally took advantage on 71’ when Dunne found himself standing all alone outside the 6-yard box just beyond the back post. Ards had tried to clear the ball through Crane but his ball out only found an opponent on the edge of the box, the ball was played wide to the feet of Dunne who had all the time in the world to pick his spot across goal. Calderwood had attempted to close down the winger but stood off too much allowing the shot, Bam didn’t have a chance and well within his rights to demand more of those working in front of him.
Ards made several changes throughout the remainder of the 2nd half, introducing youth players Edan Bavelock, making his senior team debut, along with Jacob Duckett and Jay Dalzell, but they were unable to muster up any real goal scoring chances in the last 20 mins. The match sort of petered out towards the end and after playing 4 mins of time added on the referee finally blew up for the end of the game.
The two match sponsors for tonight’s game picked Christopher Crane and Luke Thompson for their respective MOTM award.
That’s the end of the ‘home’ programme for this season and Ards now look forward to a trip to Breda Park to take on 11th placed Knockbreda. Breda will really be up for this one as Queens are only behind them by 1 point so they will have all to play for. Ards, while we have nothing really on the line, will want to solidify that 7th place and get back to winning ways for the fans that will make that trip. Queens currently in 12th host Ballyclare in 10th, which k will be all to aware of, makes for an interesting trip.
Neeson, Calderwood(79), McGrandles, Crane, Dinu, Thompson(62), Cafolla, Donnelly(75), Boyd(79), Scannell, Reynolds(62)
Lemoignan, Magee(79), Bavelock(62), Arthurs, Duckett(79), Dalzell(75), Igiehon(62)