NIFL Championship – 15/01/22
Groundhog Day as Ards come ‘un-Dun’ again….
With Ards involvement in the various cup competitions now over for the season focus returns to the league and climbing the table to push for one of the top two spots with a home game to last weeks Irish Cup opponents Dundela. This was the 4th meeting between the sides with Dundela currently leading the head-to-head with 2 wins to Ards 1. While a winning cup run is always welcome, this fixture, and the 3 points, would be much more valuable to both teams.
Ards went into the game with a much more streamlined squad with several players having recently moved on to pastures new in the transfer window. There were also several changes to the starting line-up following last weeks game, arguably Ards worst performance of the season to date. Ferrin and Crane started across the back, DD McAllister was brought back in on the right wing and Daniel Reynolds was reinstated to lead the attack. New signing Gary Donnelly made his first start for Ards.
Finishing 3-1 to the away side, it was a similar story to last weeks game with Dundela running out comfortable winners. Despite taking the lead in the first half, against the run of play, Ards were unable to kick on and kill off the game and as we have seen all too often this season, we got punished once again. Dundela didn’t have bags of chances in the game, but those they did have were clinically finished, something Ards have been seriously lacking for several weeks now.
Scannell had the first real effort on goal in the game with a shot some 25 yards out from goal. It was well hit but easily gathered by the Duns keeper. Donnelly had a great chance shortly before the opening goal, getting on the end of a well worked move by Ards. Young made progress down the right and looped a cross to the back post for Scannell, the winger laid it off first time for Donnelly whose effort on goal nearly caught the keeper napping. He did well to make the save but the danger was not cleared, Ards recycled the ball across goal where the onrushing Young put his shot just over the bar. Promising stuff from Ards.
Dundela had their chances in the first half as well with an early penalty shout for handball being waved away by the officials. Their best chance of the half came on 25’ when Fearon’s header from Kane’s corner looped over Bam’s head, it was destined for the back of the net but somehow Bam got enough on it to push it on to the far post, it bounced out and Ards were able to scramble it clear.
An even first half saw chances for both sides, but Ards made one count on 32’ with new singing Gary Donnelly continuing his early goal scoring run with his second goal in two games. It came when Donnelly picked up the ball from Reynolds in the middle of the park and played it into Scannell’s feet. He kept his run going and Scannell played a lovely reverse ball into his path, Donnelly took one touch to get the ball out of his feet and slotted it calmly past Matthews in the Duns goal. While on the balance of play probably not a deserved lead, certainly a very welcome one.
It ended 1-0 to the home side at the break.
Dundela got the second half underway, but it seems no-one told Ards the game had restarted as they offered very little throughout seemingly content to hold on to their 1-0 advantage. There was a chance early on for Ards to extend their lead through Reynolds, but it went begging. Donnelly again done well to nip in and steal the ball from a Duns throw, carried it towards goal and played a great ball to the back post finding Reynolds. It seemed an easy finish, but he couldn’t get his feet sorted to make any sort of concrete connection and it rolled past the post and the chance was gone. After that opening Dundela controlled the half, creating excellent chances and were ruthless in front of goal when given any opportunity. Winning the half 3-0 with Fearon getting the equaliser and Annett grabbing a brace to turn the game round and grab the 3 points for the Duns.
Crane was caught on the ball for the equaliser losing out to Annett, a quick ball to Fearon who produced and excellent touch, turn and hit to finish on 59’. A disappointing goal
to concede as it should have been easily cleared earlier in the move. Ards couldn’t get a foot hold in the game and created nothing as Dundela were putting them under increasing pressure. It seemed only a matter of time before they capitalised and took the lead on 74’. Another soft goal to concede as Ards had possession of the ball. Scannell’s attempted clearance was blocked by Kerr and fell kindly to Annett, he controlled well, cut inside McGovern and bent his finish round Bam into the far corner. A good finish by the young man but Ards again had several chances to clear the danger. The game was over as a contest on 80’ when Annett grabbed his second of the game and Dundela’s third. Ards were caught out by a simple ball played from the right by Fearon, Annett had loads of space, controlled it well and smashed it in off the far post, giving Bam no chance.
With the game gone Dundela played out the rest of the half giving Ards no opportunities to get back into the game and eventually the ref brought it to a close after 5 minutes of time added on.
Another disappointing result and performance for the home fans to endure in what is fast becoming a season to forget. Following an excellent start and some breath-taking displays early on, Ards seem bereft of ideas at present and unable to make match winning changes during games. Goals win games and we’re seriously lacking a consistent goal scorer at present, nothing we didn’t already know, but something we need to put right quickly. We’ve also gone from being hard to beat to getting opened up at will by those teams we’d really expect to be outperforming. With the assembled squad in place, it’s right that we as fans expect more from them. Currently sitting just inside the promotion group in the Championship, some 7 points outside the top 2, we’ve gathered just 9 points in our last 10 games, only Ballyclare and Queens having a worse record.
Our next outing is under the ‘Friday Night Lights’ and sees Annagh come to Clandeboye Park. Annagh are currently on a great run of form having won 7 of their last 10 league games. It will be another tough night, but we desperately need a response from the team to give us some hope for the remainder of the season. Hope that is quickly running out it has to be said.
Neeson, Crane, McGovern, Ferrin, Young, Scannell, Cafolla, Murray, DD McAllister, Donnelly, Reynolds
McGrandles, Dinu, Jallow, McCurry, E McAllister
Subs not used: