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  • Writer's pictureMichael Barritt

Ards 2 Annagh United 1 – Match Report

NIFL Championship – 22/10/22

By Phillip Bartlett

‘Hall’ star performance sees Ards back to winning ways

Ards have had a week to put last week’s performance against Institute behind them and attempt to get back on track in their promotion push, preparing for another tough test, in a season that promises to be full of them. Annagh were this week's guests at Clandeboye Park, bringing a reminder of how cruel football can be as in the reverse fixture some 2 months ago Annagh grabbed a 90+ minute winner. Annagh are sitting as the best of the rest behind current runaway leaders Loughgall and will be keen to try and stay on their heels while Ards need the 3 points to try and reel them back in.

There were 2 changes to the now familiar 'Championship starting 11' this week, one tactical change and another enforced due to injury. Ross Hunter misses out this week up top, replaced by Daniel Reynolds while Conal Young starts in the middle of the park replacing the injured TJ Murray. DeeDee McAllister was once again on the bench hoping to get some more minutes under his belt as he continues his return to match fitness after a long spell out.

Arguably one of Ards best and most complete performances of the season to date, with several players really upping their game this time round, a response we really needed after last week’s lacklustre showing. It was a display we needed to put together to stand any chance of beating a tough Annagh side as we reversed the 2-1 score line from the return fixture earlier this season. Ards top two goal scorers, Scannell and Salley, each added to their season tallies to put Ards into a 2-0 lead, the team grabbing a goal in each half. Annagh pulled one back with 13 minutes left on the clock to make it a somewhat tense finale, but Ards defence remained solid and were able to see it out despite Annagh’s best efforts. A great 3 points and after a quick look at the results of the other matches a very good day for Ards as they closed the gap to most of the sides above them.

Alex Moore's reassuring presence between the sticks....

Slow start to this one from both sides with most of the play contained to the middle of the park, passing it around well but not really making any real impact in the attacking areas of the pitch. Any attacks that made any real ground were spoiled by poor delivery and easily cleaned up by the respective back lines. The first real talking point came on 15’ when Adam Salley appeared to be bundled to the floor by Annagh’s Glenny in the box. The challenge looked really clumsy, but the lino flagged for a freekick award to the away team rather than a penalty in Ards favour. The first real goal scoring chance fell to Annagh minutes later as Craig Taylor was played in by McDonald. He was running free in the box with the ball at his feet, but Cafolla did really well to get back in, put him under pressure and force the shot high over the bar, with Ards easily clearing the subsequent corner.

The breakthrough came soon thereafter when, on 22’, the man of the moment Eamon Scannell kept up his great goal scoring run for the season. Annagh had the ball in control and were working it up the field when a poor touch in midfield allowed Paddy Cafolla to nip and win the ball. It was released to Adam Salley who saw Scannell in and advanced position alongside the Annagh back line and played a perfectly weighted pass through the middle. Scannell timed his run well, just managing to stay onside, and ran on to the pass. One touch to get it out of his feet, the second touch a clinical finish past the keeper just inside the box, Rogers trying in vain to get back to make some sort of a challenge. The home crowd once again getting to witness the now all too familiar celebration.

Eamon Scannell with his 'well worn' goal celebration

Ards kept trying to press home their advantage while their tails were up, good efforts from both Reynolds and Cafolla coming close to extending the lead but neither effort really tested Little in the Annagh goal. Ards really should have had a second before the interval through Reynolds who found himself in a similar position to Scannell on 42’ but he couldn’t find the finish as Little advanced from his goal, stayed big and made the save with his feet. Another fantastic ball through the Annagh defence by Salley finding the run by Reynolds. A good first touch to keep himself of the retreating defenders but the finish wasn’t there, and Little does well. Another superb attacking pass by Salley, proving the big man from Portadown can do more than just score goals. It was a great run by Reynolds, but I expect he’ll feel he should have done better and converted the chance.

There were 2 additional minutes played at the end of the first half before the ref blew up for the break, Ards go in leading 1-0 through Eamon Scannell.

There were no changes made for either side at the break with Annagh getting us back under way after the interval.

Annagh were the aggressors at the start of the second half putting Ards under pressure with some great deliveries early on and if not for an errant finish by Stephen Murray Ards would have been pegged back within the very early stages. Lucky enough his effort went harmlessly wide of the far post after Glenny’s cross dropped over Calderwood’s head finding the big man in acres of space. He probably had a bit more time than he thought but opted for a first-time finish rather than taking a touch. Annagh captain Henderson next to try his hand at creator, linking up well with substitute Conor Mullen down the Ards right. His ball in towards Murray was well defended by Taylor and the clearance being completed by Conal Young. There were half hearted appeals for an Annagh penalty following JTs challenge, but nothing doing.

Ards' Kyle Calderwood tackles anything, anytime, anywhere...

Ards stayed resolute and managed to maintain their clean sheet while playing themselves back into the game as an attacking threat, eventually doubling their lead on 62’ when Adam Salley claimed what will probably be the easiest goal of his career. Kyle Calderwood played the ball into a dangerous area between the defence and the goalkeeper. Little came to claim the ball while Paul Finnegan also had designs on winning it as he tracked back towards his own goal. This led to a disaster for the away side as neither man claimed the ball allowing it to bounce through to an unmarked Adam Salley with an empty net in front of him. It was a confusing play as I think everyone in the ground expected an offside flag, but none came. The striker didn’t worry himself about that, putting the ball in the back of the net to be sure and worry about the official's decisions later. Right call as no decision came, Ards 2-0 in front.

Ards seemed to be heading for a comfortable 2-0 win as Annagh had seemingly ran out of ideas resorting to long ball football and shots from distance. The tactics did eventually pay off as there was a momentary crack in the Ards back line as Hall misjudged a loopy ball over the top by Glenny. Murray had gambled, as all good strikers do, and it paid off as the ball fell kindly into his path and all he had to do was poke it past the onrushing Moore into the Ards goal. 2-1 the score, not as comfortable for Ards as we head into the last 10 mins or so. Despite getting themselves back into the game there was no sustained pressure from Annagh in the last 10 mins, in fact Ards themselves looked the more dangerous, the pacey Ross Hunter, having earlier replaced Daniel Reynolds causing all sorts of problems with his speed as Annagh looked to press high up. He nearly had the last laugh too as his rasping shot hit the side netting in the dying seconds of the game.

Happy happy home support as Ards run out 2-1 winners....

There was a minimum of 3 minutes of time added on to be played and after 4 of those minutes had passed the ref brought the game to a halt. Ards were able to see out the last few minutes of the match to claim a very valuable, and very well deserved 3 points. Not an easy feat against a really useful Annagh side who are sitting in second place through merit and their performances already this season. It can’t go without saying there were two moments of brilliance by Ards midfielder Ethan Taggart during the game, both involving Annagh captain Niall Henderson. Two brilliant bits of skill that I believe will still have Henderson’s head spinning. Another brilliant performance in the middle by ‘ET’, one of a handful of Ards players that could easily have walked away with the MOTM award. The sponsors for this one duly awarded that honour to Greg Hall, easily his best game in and Ards shirt since his return.

With the results going as they did Ards remain in 5th spot, but the points difference is now 10 from 1st to us down in 5th as all three teams at the top suffered defeat. Hopefully it will tighten up even more so over the coming weeks and make for a very exciting season with 4 or 5 teams challenging for the top spots. Ards will have a say in that next week as we travel to top of the table Loughgall at Lakeview. Tippy won his first game in charge of Ards away to Loughgall last season and will be looking to replicate that and narrow the gap even more.

Starting Line-up:

Moore, Crane, Taylor, Hall, Calderwood, Scannell, Young, Cafolla, Taggart, Reynolds, Salley


Craughwell, Arthurs, Jallow, McAllister, McVeigh, McKendry, Hunter

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