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Ards 0 v 1 Annagh

NIFL Championship – 21/01/22

By Phillip Bartlett

Annagh adds to Ards Agony

It was Friday Night Football for Ards this week, welcoming Annagh United to Clandeboye Park in league action. The game was switched from the usual Saturday at 15:00 due to Bangor’s involvement in the Intermediate cup happening at the same time. Currently all square between the sides with Ards beating Annagh with a last minute Cafolla winner in the opening game of the season and Annagh returning the favour with a 2-0 win in the return game in November. With Annagh having one of the best records in the league, with 7 wins in the last 10 games, Ards were facing an uphill task.

Ards have been carrying on their good work in the current transfer window strengthening at both ends of the pitch with Derry city’s reserve keeper Jack Lemoignan and Dergview’s striker Benny Igiehon both joining Ards in the last week. Both are straight into tonight’s starting 11 with recent signing Joe Tully back on the bench after last week’s absence. TJ Murray and Scannell miss out due to injury and illness.

A Ruairi McDonald goal on the brink of half time was all that separated the teams in what was another disappointing performance by Ards. Neither team will be overly happy with the performance this evening, it was a tough game to watch despite a pretty decent opening 20 minutes that promised much, but in the end failed to deliver. There was little between the teams outside of a lucky deflected Annagh strike that found it’s way over the keeper and into the back of the net.

Ards started quickly and had the first chance of the game when Benny was picked out by a Daniel Reynolds cross in the second minute. The cross was played just behind the debut striker and he failed to get a clean connection. Ards tried to keep the move alive through Cafolla who again tried to pick out Benny in the middle, but he was crowded out and Annagh were able to clear. That chance pretty much summed up the remainder of the first half for Ards with several chances created but the final ball was lacking, as has been the case for several weeks now. Ards missed a gilt-edged chance on 41’ when the final ball was a fraction early for Donnelly at the back post. Cafolla nicked the ball on the edge of his own half and played the ball out wide to Reynolds on the half way line, Reynolds carried the ball some 30 yards up the pitch and sent a dangerous ball across the goal aimed for Donnelley, who’d made a great run through the middle, but the pass was just too early and the keeper was able to collect.

Ards done well to limit Annagh’s’ chances in the first half with new keeper Lemoignan remaining untroubled until the goal which came on 44’. Annagh’s’ McDonald found himself in acres of space in the middle of goal, about 25 yards out, his shot striking the boot of the onrushing McGrandles and looping over the stranded keeper into the back of the net. Without the deflection it would probably have been a comfortable save but instead its looped up and over the keeper, who couldn’t move his feet in time to prevent the ball from hitting the back of the net. It was a bit of luck that Ards have been crying out for for weeks now. A disappointing goal for Ards to concede, very unlucky, but the danger should have been snuffed out earlier in the move with McDonald afforded far too much time and space just outside the Ards 18.

Ironically after that Annagh will probably feel unlucky to not have doubled their lead in time added on. A corner from the left, the keeper came to claim it but was beaten to the ball by Upton in the 6-yard box, his powerful header was destined for the top corner, but an alert Crane had dropped deep to cover the far post and was able to head it off the line. The referee blew up for halftime with the score at 0-1.

Early in the second it was a case of déjà vu as another Annagh strike from outside the box took a wicked deflection, looped up and went over the goalkeeper’s head. This time however there wasn’t as much pace on the shot and the keeper was able to adjust his feet and make a comfortable catch. Lemoignan was once again involved on 59’ when the Annagh striker beat the Ards offside trap and found himself one on one with the Ards shot stopper. Great positioning by the new man, staying tall and strong covering his near post, he was able to make the block with his feet and Ards cleared.

Ards came closest to equalising on 54’ from a well-rehearsed corner routine. A corner from the right by Cafolla, dummied by Reynolds and found McGrandles. His first-time shot was destined for the net but somehow Annagh managed to block it and see it out for another corner. It gave the home support a moment of joy as it looked like it had found the net. The joy was short lived though as reality bit, still 0-1 to the away team. The last half hour of the game was really flat with both sides creating very little in the way of chances. Looking on you would think it was 0-0 and both teams had accepted that. Of course, this suited Annagh as they held the advantage.

The Ards bench made several attacking changes, introducing Jallow, Arthurs and Tully to try and get back into the game. The changes were positive, with Ards creating arguably two of their best changes in injury time with both Arthurs and Igiehon going close with headers within a minute of each other. Arthurs found himself through on goal courtesy of an Igiehon flick on, but the ball wouldn’t come down, so he tried to head it over the onrushing Hughes in the Annagh goal. There was no pace on the ball, and he was unable to generate the necessary power to lift it over the keeper who gathered easily. Benny’s chance was the better of the two, but his powerful header from Jallows’ cross was well saved by the Annagh keeper. It was a full stretch dive to his right, a bit theatrical for my taste and def one for the cameras, but it was enough to push it to safety and allow Annagh to clear.

Annagh’s game management, if not enjoyable for the home fans watching on, was very effective and they ran the clock down seeing out the half, after playing out 5 mins in time added on, taking the 3 points with a 1-0 victory. In truth Ards could well have played another 90 minutes and probably not found the net but Annagh didn’t look overly threatening either. It was a game that promised so much early on but fell short as chances were limited for both sides. This was not helped at all by the officiating team, so many poor calls throughout they didn’t help the game flow leaving it very disjointed.

Yet more disappointment and heartache for the Ards fans whose expectations and hopes were high thanks to an excellent start to the season, winning 9 of their first 13 league games. I think a lot of the disappointment comes from knowing that the current group of players, along with the management and coaching staff, can and should be putting in better performances and getting better results. The hope is that a performance is just around the corner and that something clicks, but as the weeks go by that hope is fading.

Ards next game is against Queens, one of only two sides in the league that has a worse current record than us. The fans will rightly expect 3 points, and at this stage by any means possible really, of course a top team performance along with it would be really welcome. We move on to the next game, have to retain hope that we find the answers and it comes to together as we know it can.

Starting eleven:

Lemoignan, Crane, McGovern, Ferrin, Young, McGrandles, Cafolla, Donnelly, DD McAllister, Igiehon, Reynolds

Subs used:

Arthurs, Jallow, Tully

Subs not used:

Neeson, O’Hare, Dinu,

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