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  • Writer's pictureMichael Barritt

Ards 2 Ballinamallard 0 – Match Report

NIFL Championship – 05/11/22

By Phillip Bartlett

Duck ‘Hunter’ on target as Ards defeat the Mallards

Another game to forget for Ards last week, falling to second heavy defeat against Loughgall, with full focus on today’s opponents as Ballinamallard make the long trek to Clandeboye Park from Fermanagh. The ‘Ducks’ have a decent record of late, winning 5 of their last 7 including a heavy 4-1 against Ards in the return fixture back in September. Heavy on paper anyway as we lost 3 late goals while pressing high up the pitch. Still, motivation enough for today’s game where a win would take us above todays opponents in the table.

One change to last week’s line up with Conall Young reinstated to the starting line-up, Kyle Calderwood taking his place on the bench. Familiar look to the squad and bench as manager Tipton appears to have settled on his preferred squad makeup, for now at least. The home fans hopeful that we can see a bit more of DeeDee in the coming weeks as we know exactly what an inform McAllister can bring the team.

Two weeks ago, I spoke of Ards putting in one of their most complete performances of the season only to be followed up the week after with a 6-1 defeat. Today’s show against the Mallards, thankfully, was more reminiscent of the Annagh result where the whole team, to a man, gave a very professional account of themselves from minute 1 to minute 99 running out with a very well deserved 2-0 win. Ards controlled the majority of the game, limiting the Mallards attacking options, while retaining their own attacking threat with Ross Hunter the star of the show. They young man didn’t stop running all game, never giving the Mallards back line a minute of peace on the ball and topping off his performance by grabbing the opening goal of then game. The scoring was complete in the first half as Ards took a 2-0 lead into the break. Salley claimed the goal, but replays suggest it was an own goal, but I’ll not be telling the big striker that.

Early stages of the game it was hard to tell who was having the best of it, quite tight and most of the play contained to the middle of the park. Hunter for Ards and Banda for Mallards had the early chances as an attacking threat, failing to trouble either keeper early on but a sign of the danger posed in each side. Both Ards full back probably still have nightmares about Banda from the reverse fixture where we struggled to deal with his pace and power, and this was on show again today. Cricky Crane struggling to manage Banda’s threat down the ‘Ducks’ right-hand side in the early stages, a long ball from Lynch seemed harmless enough but Banda’s pace got him behind Crane and allowed him to get a shot on goal but hit side netting.

Salley’s movement and Hunters pace at the top of the pitch was giving Ballinamallard cause for concern as well with Hunter going closest to opening the scoring on 13’. Taggart picked the ball up in the middle of the park and carried it forward looking for options. He picked out Hunter who went in field looking for a shooting opportunity, eventually releasing a right foot effort on goal. There was little power behind it and Lynch easily collected in the Mallards goal. Hunter kept pressing and had the ball in the net for Ards on 23’ but was quickly ruled out by the referee for offside. It was a great ball put in by Ethan Taggart to pick out the run of Hunter, but he’d went just a bit too early and was flagged. Moment of joy quickly taken away from the home support.

Ards number 18 wasn’t deterred his persistence paid off as he did open the scoring some 4 minutes later, again a ball from the right, this time provided by Conall Young, and Hunter did the rest bundling the ball over the line and into the back of the net at the far post while under serious pressure by Warnock. Wouldn’t have been the young man’s cleanest of goals but no-one in red and blue will worry about that.

After taking the lead Ards were very comfortable looking the most likely team to grab the next goal and on 36’ they really should have doubled their lead as Hunter smashed an effort off the cross bar from 6 yards out in the middle of the goal. Great build up play by Ards on the right again, Scannell involved picking out Taggart with a square pass inside. Taggart ran at the Mallards back line feinting to shoot but ran it towards the by-line before cutting the ball back perfectly for Hunter. He really should have done better and kept it under the bar. The Ducks escaped that one but not for long as Ards did double their lead before the break, Adam Salley claiming this one from the Ards corner. TV replays suggest it has gone straight in from the Paddy Cafolla corner so perhaps there will be a dispute in the changing room about who gets it.

There were 6 minutes of time added on at the end of the first half following injuries to both Young and Warnock that required lengthy treatment. During that time Scannell saw a great effort on goal go just wide of the far post. A great curling effort that just didn’t come back far enough. The ref eventually blew up, Ards go in to the break 2-0 up.

Mallards make a change at the break, Ards resume with the same eleven that started the game and it’s Paddy Cafolla that gets the game moving again.

No goals in the second half but plenty of action for the Clandeboye Park crowd, with Ards putting in a great display to see out then half. Hunter again in the thick of it and despite putting in a MOTM performance, he may well have come off disappointed not to have grabbed another goal or two. The best chance for Ards to extend their lead further in the second half came on 65’ during a bit of penalty box scramble with 3 or 4 shots, none of which found the back of the net. Both Hunter and Scannell involved with the Mallards defence and keeper somehow managing to repel the chances. Great work by them but I believe we should really have taken one of those chances and made life a bit easier.

Hunter’s last action of the match was another great piece of individual work. Playing on the shoulder of the last man he collected Taggarts ball over the top, he cut inside to get a shot away, lost his footing at the last second. He managed to retain the ball and make a second opening before firing the ball just over the bar. Very close to goal again. Ards were on the up again and even Cricky Crane decided to get in on the action at the top end of the pitch. A great flowing move by Ards, switching the play form right to left saw Cricky emerge with the ball just outside the 6yd box but at a tight angle. It was a good low shot on goal, but Lynch was equal to it and the Mallards clear the danger.

Despite being 2-0 down Ards didn’t look to drop overly deep to maintain the lead, rather they kept on the front foot to ensure the Mallards didn’t have much joy as an attacking threat. There were still moments towards the end of the game were we were under pressure but commanding defending by Taylor and Young ensured Ards didn’t concede and inch today. Excellent showing all over the park and after 3 mins of time added on, the referee blew up to end the game. Ards with a very well earned 3 points and a 2-0 win over a tough Ballinamallard side.

It was no shock to anyone when Ross Hunter was named MOTM by today’s game sponsors, richly deserved for a great performance and opening goal. Next up is a rearranged fixture as Newington visit Clandeboye park on Tuesday evening. Free scoring currently sit in 9th and are 10 points behind Ards going into this one. No easy games in this league so we have to get prepared quickly and keep up the momentum from this game.

Starting Line-up:

Moore, Crane, Taylor, Hall, Young, Cafolla, Taggart, TJ Murray, Scannell, Hunter Salley


Craughwell, Arthurs, Jallow, McAllister, McVeigh, Calderwood, Reynolds

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