NIFL Championship – 03/12/22
By Phillip Bartlett
Spoils are shared as ‘ET' fires home....
Last weeks trip to Milltown proved to be one of the most unusual games that I’ve seen this season, plenty of action, plenty of incident, a lot of goals but more importantly 3 points for Ards and another W this season. Today Institute travel down to Clandeboye Park for the 15:00 Saturday kick-off. Having already lost to ‘Stute on the road this season, Ards will be hoping to reverse that result and keep their undefeated run going. 5th position going into this one and todays opponents in 8th, 5 points the difference but with 3 wins in their last 4 Institute will come in to this one with confidence high and hoping for a positive result to make the long journey home that much more enjoyable. Another tough game, but in this league, there are no easy ones.
Time before kick-off to present Ards forward Adam Salley with the PACS POTM award for November the striker grabbing an impressive 6 goals last month
Last week was the first time ‘Tippy’ has been really troubled with enforced absences in the squad and while some of those names returned today, there were still important personnel missing out. Cricky Crane returned to the starting line-up while Johnny Taylor and TJ Murray were available from the bench, Calum McVeigh and Ben Mullen retaining their place in the starting line-up. There was a place in the first 11 today for last weeks hero Salou Jallow, reward for turning the game in Ards favour, as Ross Hunter misses out through illness. Reserve team players Jay Boyd and Jacob Duckett are still named in the squad, hoping to add to their Ards senior team appearance count.
A first half to quickly forget, followed by a second half only marginally better than the 45 that came before. Ards probably had the better of both halfs as far as chances created were concerned but we could probably count on one hand how many saves either keeper had to make in this one. To be fair to the players the weather wasn’t exactly conducive to any cohesive passing football as the rain made conditions difficult for both sides and that’s pretty much what we got. A goalless first half of limited chances did see some decent delivery from Ards out wide from both sides, but no-one in the attacking areas could make the most of it, 0-0 at the interval. There was a bit more to the game in the second half including a goal for each side in the first 10 mins. After that it was as you were, a lot of effort and endeavour from both side but the quality was lacking in all most areas. Institute broke the deadlock on 48’ through McFadden, marking a terrible start the second half for Ards, a really soft goal from a set piece. The response from the home team was impressive however, getting back on level terms just 7 minutes later, Ethan Taggart getting himself among the goals from the middle of the park. Again, Ards had the best of the second half chances and had a couple of great ones to take all points right at the death but 1-1 it finished; the spoils shared.
Another bad day for football, the rains coming shortly before kick-off to make life difficult for both sides. Salou Jallow was introduced into the game last week against Warrenpoint and proved to be the key to the win and today, having earned himself a start, he carried on where he left off, the best of Ards chances being created down the right. The Institute players on the left side tasked with martialling him really struggled with his pace and fast feet. Ards first real chance of the game was through a Jallow/Salley combination, Jallow beating his man down the right and picking out the run of Salley across the box. The cross was hit hard and low, a difficult ball to deal with but Institute just managed to scrape it away before Salley could get on the end of it. Hopeful signs early on from Ards up top.
Ards centre halfs Greg Hall and Ben Mullen threatening at the other end of the pitch
Jallow was also proving to be a threat in front of goal, going close as early as 2 minutes as he challenged Doherty for a Cricky Crane cross. Hard to say who got there first but Jallow was adjudged to have fouled the keeper and was pulled up by the ref. He was threatening again on 19’ picking up a great position in the box. Crane again with the delivery, Jallow controlled the ball well, but it struck his hand in the build-up and the attack fell apart as the ref awarded the foul. It seemed harsh but probably correct with the laws what they are. Salley got Ards first effort on target on 32’ with a well hit shot after a great passing move down the right, Jallow and Scannell combining well before playing it square to Salley. He shifted the ball quickly to make a bit of room and got his shot away. A comfortable enough save for Doherty in the ‘Stute goal, but again Ards showing more positive signs. Salley followed that up with another chance a few mins later, this time picking the ball up from Crane as he cut in from wide left. Salley collected the ball and stepped back inside before releasing his shot towards the far corner of the goal. It went just wide with Doherty scrambling across goal struggling to make up the distance.
The best of the attacking action certainly falling to Ards in the first half, but unable to convert as the ref played an additional 2 mins time added on for an early stoppage when Doherty was down for treatment. 0-0 at the interval. Work to be done in the second half.
The teams were back out for the second half, no changes for either side at the break, the supporters certainly hoping for better fare as Ards get the game going again.
Worst possible start to the second half as Institute open the scoring with a really scrappy goal at the back post. Institute were awarded a corner on 48’, Burke sent it deep into the area and both sides challenging to get some meaningful contact. Ards had chances to clear the danger but failed to do so, McFadden benefitting from being in the right place at the right time as he bundled the ball into the back of the net. Again, we dominate a game but find ourselves going behind and requiring a response. Credit to Ards though as that response was almost immediate, two great chances in the following 2 minutes as Jallow and Salley tried their luck but both saw their shots well blocked from close range. 60 seconds later McVeigh had a golden opportunity but blazed his shot high over the bar from about 12 yards out. He had plenty of time and space and should really have hit the target and at least forced Doherty into making a save.
Ards goal scorer Ethan Taggart battling for the ball in the middle of the park
Ards weren’t behind for long, the pressure being applied after going behind quickly paying off as Ethan Taggart equalised on 55’ with a composed finish at the near post. Jallow the creator for this one, carrying on his good work down the right flank, proving unmanageable for the ‘Stute defensive players on that side. He used his pace to race into the box and towards the by-line and while he may originally have been looking to take the goal on himself, he quickly realised that Taggart was better positioned and played a perfectly weighted ball to the midfielder who made no mistake, firing a side footed shot past Doherty into the net at the near post. A great goal by Ards and a great response after going behind. A lively opening 10 minutes of the second half that certainly raised expectations for the remaining 35.
Unfortunately, that promise was not fulfilled and, despite Ards again dominating in the final 3rd, they were unable to find that all important winner with both Salley and Scannell going close. Scannell’s goalscoring exploits have stalled somewhat the last few games, having not scored since his hattrick against H&W Welders, but he had the perfect chance today to get back on track and grab Ards all 3 points but couldn’t get adjust quickly enough to get his header right. On 72’ Cafolla sent in a brilliant cross from the left picking out Scannell. The Ards #7 had drifted unseen into space but mistimed his header, the ball coming off the top of his head a looping high up over the cross bar. From that distance any meaningful contact would have been a certain goal. Arthurs replaced McVeigh on 68’ to provide additional strength and composure up top and on 77’ he played an excellent through ball to Salley who found himself one-on-one with Doherty. He was some distance from goal and Doherty had strayed a bit from his line, so Ards’ top goal scorer opted to try and lift the ball over the keeper but got it all wrong, the ball ending up being lifted some 40 yards over the bar. I expect there might have been a last second bobble of some kind that lifted the ball slightly but regardless, with Salley’s current form in front of goal you would have expected better from that position.
Adam Salley tries his luck on goal in the first half
There was little to no standout moments in the last 15 mins, both teams possibly considering that a point would be a good result considering the circumstances, but Ards did have a moment right at the death that could have saw them steal all 3 points. Jallow once again involved from the right and could have made himself the hero for a second week in a row. The ball was played into the danger zone but there was no meaningful contact and the ball found it’s way out to Salou wide right. He took a moment to compose himself and hit a hard shot high across goal aiming for the far corner. Doherty seemed to have been caught out, perhaps expecting a cross from Jallow instead of a shot, but he managed to correct himself and palm it away to safety. Those travelling Institute fans breathing a sigh of relief while the home supporters were left shouting in frustration.
That was the last action of the game, the 3 minutes of time added on coming to a close and once the ball was lifted up the pitch the ref brought proceedings to an end. On reflection I’d say Institute would have been the more relieved at getting a point, Ards maybe feeling a little bit hard done by but in truth neither team really did enough to win the game. Ards now counting their second home draw in a row having waited 16 games to first get one of the season. Not surprisingly Jallow was named the sponsors MOTM for this one, an easy decision as he was outstanding today.
Todays MOTM Salou Jallow leaping into action
Annagh and Warrenpoint were the only teams in the top 6 to win this week, league leaders Loughgall escaping with a 1-1 draw at home to Ballinamallard. Ards in 5th now sitting 12 points behind the leaders and 8 points behind Annagh in 2nd and the promotion play-off spot. Still plenty of games and points to go and it promises to be an exciting season right to the end. Ards next outing sees new boys Newington visit Clandeboye Park again next week. Ards were on the end of a shock result last time out, in fact that was the last game Ards lost, so there will be extra motivation to extend our 4 game unbeaten run to 5 games. Hopefully we can get rid of the remaining illness in the squad and be back to capacity next week.
Moore, Crane, Mullen, Hall, Young, Cafolla (C), Taggart, McVeigh, Scannell, Salley, Jallow
McKendry, Arthurs, Taylor, Calderwood, Boyd, Duckett, Murray
* Todays photos courtesy of Joe McEwan