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  • Writer's pictureMichael Barritt

Ards 1 Dundela 1 – Match Report

NIFL Championship – 31/12/22

By Phillip Bartlett

Stalemate after the only show in town closes out the year

Thankfully we didn’t have too long to wait after the last game to get back out, the festive period bringing games thick and fast in the NIFL. Despite scoring two good goals against Knockbreda there wasn’t much festive cheer after the final whistle, the defence still giving real cause for concern. Going into the game against Breda as favourites, Ards had no such worries this time with Dundela the guests at Clandeboye Park, currently sitting above us in the table. Having already taken 3 points off the Duns however, and both teams heading into this one on the back of poor results, it promises to be an interesting occasion.

A few changes to the starting 11 after last week’s fixture see the return of Johnny Taylor at the heart of the Ards defence. Greg Hall is moved out to his favoured right back position as Conal Young takes up a more advanced role. After grabbing an impressive brace against Knockbreda Ross Arthurs starts up top alongside Adam Salley and Eamon Scannell. TJ Murray and Ross Hunter are dropped to the bench for this one, while Paddy Cafolla takes on the captains armband in TJs absence.

Paddy Cafolla with the captains armband as TJ Murray misses out

Ards can thank themselves very lucky to have got anything out of this game following a very lacklustre first half where, had Dundela brought a final ball with them, could have been out of sight at the break. As it was Ards survived until half time, going into the break 0-0 before Rhys Annett and Eamon Scannell swapped second half goals in a slightly improved performance from the home side, despite having gone behind. Dundela carved out several very good chances, seemingly getting behind the Ards back line at will in the first half. Despite all their good build up play they proved very wasteful with the final ball allowing Ards to clear having been caught out numerous times. Rhys Annett opened the scoring with a solo effort on 58’ only to see it cancelled out by Scannell on 71’, the Ards #7 grabbing his 11th Championship goal of the season following a bit of scramble in the box. 1-1 it finished and I’d say Dundela would have left the unhappier of the two sides considering the chances they created, but we’ll take a point, hard earned that it was.

Within the first 3 minutes of the match, the tone was set, Dundela easily getting beyond the last man on two occasions only for the offside flag to give Ards a reprieve on each occasion. The pattern continued, the Duns seemingly sorting out the timing of their runs, and Ciaran Dobbin had the run of the park on 6’ getting down the Ards right and past Taylor like he wasn’t there only to fall at the final hurdle as he was unable to pick out the run of Rhys Annett into the box. Mullen cleared for Ards. Dobbin was again heavily involved 5 mins later finding loads of space for a cross near the by-line but his cross, hard and low across goal, missed everyone in a green shirt. Ards living dangerously allowing balls into the box, it cost us 3 goals last week.

Ards Greg Hall fending off Eamon Fyfe in his more preferred right back slot today

Up until the 17th minute of the game Ards attacking line-up were pretty much bystanders until Taggart picked the ball up inside the opposition half wide left. He ran at the defence and picked out Conal Young in a more advanced role today, just inside the 18yd box. It looked perfectly setup for Young to hit first time at goal, but he took a touch and couldn’t quite get his feet sorted for a shot and ended up playing it back to Taggart. The midfield man tested Cairns in the Duns goal, but the angle was too tight, and it was easily saved. Ards finally expressing themselves as an attacking force. Having tested the opposition keeper, it was time for Alex Moore to get involved, Willie Faulkner trying his luck curling an excellent effort towards the far post just inside the box. Moore made the save, diving high and at full stretch to his left and parrying it to safety. It didn’t get far though, Dobbin picking it up just outside the box before driving a follow up shot towards goal, Moore had regained his footing by this point and made the save.

With the number of chances Dundela created in the first 45 they’ll be kicking themselves that it ended 0-0 at the break. Even Coleraine bound Eamon Fyfe couldn’t assist in break the deadlock, picking out McKay’s run down the left, again his ball into the box was missed by everyone in green. Plenty of great passing moves by the away side, a good bit of fortune for the home side and after 1 minute of time added on the ref took us into the interval.

The teams were back out for the second half, no changes at the break for Ards, but I dare say it was a tense team talk having just about managed to keep it level at the break.

Early signs were good after the break as well, I wouldn’t have minded hearing what was said but Ards really should have been celebrating an opening goal after just 6 minutes of the restart. The Championships’ top goal scorer Adam Salley will be wondering how he has not found the back of the net with this one. Some 8 yards from goal, dead centre, Taggart’s square ball picked him out perfectly, he’s done everything right, but Cairns in the Duns goal has anticipated it brilliantly and somehow positioned himself to make a remarkable save. I’m not even sure he knows how it’s stayed out but 0-0 the score, Duns turn to breathe a sigh of relief.

As is typical in these matters Ards not long after they should have taken the lead find themselves 1-0 down, Rhys Annett popping up with a well worked solo goal. The ex-Ards man picked up the ball wide left, used his pace to get past Greg Hall in the right back berth before cutting the ball back and finishing clinically at the near post. It seemed a bit of mismatch out that side, Hall unable to match Annett’s pace, but this was the first time the pacey wide man had really got the better of him and it was a decent finish to cap it off, going against Moore’s movement giving him no chance to adapt. 1-0 pretty much on the hour mark.

Ards striker Ross Arthurs keeping ex-Ards defender Jamie McGovern on his toes

On 66’ the Duns missed a brilliant chance to double their lead, the failings from the first half still evident as Kane played a brilliant ball over the top picking out Fyfe but again his ball into the box missed everyone in green and everyone in Red and Blue as well. A poor ball in and no danger to Moore in the Ards goal. Having given up those earlier chances they were ruing them more so some 5 mins later as on 71’ Ards ‘Mr Reliable’ Eamon Scannell popped up with the equaliser finishing off a bit of a scramble in the penalty area with a calm finish into the far corner. It was a mass of bodies in the box, Ethan Taggart had the first crack at goal shooting into a crowd, the ball broke kindly to Scannell, but he still had a lot to do, managing to pick out a great finish through the crowd and into the corner of the goal. Cairns was most likely obstructed, giving him no chance, but no-one in red and blue will be worrying too much about that. A goal Ards probably just about deserved made in no small part my Taggart who has having a good game in the middle of the park.

The goal had given Ards a lift and Salley seemed determined to add to his tally for the season as, with 15 minutes to go, he bore down on goal, using the space in front created by a very clever run off the ball by Hunter. His shot was well hit but Cairns was set well and took the sting out of the shot and collected at the second attempt. Positive signs by Ards but still with a mind of protecting what they had at the back. After the equaliser Dundela didn’t offer much more up top and it was actually the home team that could well have stolen all 3 points right at the death. Scannell took a late freekick into the box, it was initially well cleared by a Duns head but it deflected back into the area towards Hall, he attacked the ball at the back post but was pulled up for offside.

That was the last attack of the game and having played the allocated 3 mins of time added on the referee duly blew the final whistle to bring the curtain down on the NIFL in 2022. Being the only show in town it was a good crowd for Ards, their biggest of the season to date. As mentioned previously, I think the away supporters will be leaving a bit disappointed but after both sides last outings, I expect both will be happy with a point a piece. The Ards match sponsor MOTM award was given to Ethan Taggart after a very energetic performance in the middle of the park. Tireless work throughout the whole 90+.

Ards MOTM Ethan Taggart gets presented with his award by club ambassador Rhys McClenaghan after the final whistle

Break from League action next as we travel to Stangmore Park to take on Premier League outfit Dungannon Swifts in the 1st round proper of the Irish Cup. A rearranged fixture due to both Bangor and Ards being drawn at home sees us take to the road. With a couple of new signings already announced perhaps there will be more to report upon following the completion of the next fixture.

Starting Line-up:

Moore, Crane, Mullen, Hall, Taylor, Young, Cafolla (C), Taggart, Scannell, Salley, Arthurs


Boyd, Calderwood, Jallow, McVeigh, Reynolds, Hunter,

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