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  • Writer's pictureMichael Barritt

Ards 2 Ballyclare 1 – Match Report

NIFL Championship – 26/08/22

By Phillip Bartlett

Ards' ‘Man Friday’ Scannell strikes late…

For the second home match in a row Ards were hosting under the Friday night lights at Clandeboye Park with Ballyclare Comrades tonight’s guests. After the last couple of poor results, those games better best forgotten, the RABA were hoping and praying for a positive result of any kind tonight to hopefully get the season back on track. While the performance on Tuesday was marginally better than that against Loughgall, the result was still the same. Of course we’re still very early in the season, but we find ourselves in danger of being left behind at the top of the table.

Ards enjoyed playing Ballyclare last season with comprehensive wins both home and away so it would be seen as a great chance to get back on track, but Ballyclare have yet to lose this season winning their last two games without conceding a goal so it will be another tough game in a season that promises to be full of them.

Ards are yet again unable to field the same starting eleven with Paddy Cafolla going off injured in the last game, but he will hopefully be available again in a week or two. Ross Hunter and Conal Young were brought in to make their first starts of the season, Young having been taken off injured in the last preseason game away to Coleraine, while Reynolds was relegated to the bench. Once again, we face an opposition with plenty of ex Red and Blue men in their ranks with no less than 4 ex-players in the Ballyclare match day squad.

A pretty even game overall but Ards did just enough to come out on top claiming a much needed 3 points. While the home fans would have hoped for a better performance, tonight’s result was always going to take precedence over whatever quality was on display. A win was key regardless of how it came to pass, and that’s pretty much what we got. A scrappy game, lots of fouls, limited free flowing football from either side, but 3 points as Ards managed to secure a 2-1 win, Eamon Scannell grabbing the winner with 5 mins left on the clock. Earlier in the piece Ross Hunter had put Ards into a very early lead only for ex Ards boy Calvin McCurry to equalise early in the second half.

A great start for Ards and I doubt they could believe their luck as Ross Hunter finished well to put them into the lead in the very 1st minute of the match. An initial ball played down the left found Hunter in space and he managed to get a shot away testing the keeper. It was easily gathered by Purcell in the Ballyclare goal, but a lack of concentration saw his quick clearance deflect right out to Hunter who calmly slotted it into the goal, nabbing his first goal for the club. A big mistake from Ballyclare, but early joy for Ards and the home supporters that had turned out for this one. An early set back for the visitors but they quickly regrouped and were threatening the Ards goal, hitting the crossbar on 6’. Ards guilty of giving away a very soft freekick just outside the box, the delivery was met well with the header crashing back off the cross bar with Moore beat. Fortunately for Ards the second ball came back at pace and the follow up effort went well wide of the post.

After a slow start Ballyclare were getting on top creating good chances in their attacking 3rd, but some solid defending from Ards, mixed with a couple of good stops by Moore, kept the lead intact. TJ Murray found himself in the right place at the right time to clear the lines on 11’ following a Ballyclare freekick towards the near post. A dangerous ball but TJ cleared it up with a well-timed header. Ballyclare kept on the offensive putting Ards under pressure with Moore having to be on his toes only minutes later making a sharp save diving down to his left and managing to tip the ball round the far post. Another fine save from the new number 1.

One of the more contentious moments of the game came on 33’ when Ballyclare should have been awarded a penalty for a deliberate tug of the shirt in the box. I think all the supporters in the ground, home and away, were surprised that the ref didn't point to the spot for that one. A bit of luck that we’ll gladly take. Ballyclare did have the ball in the back of the net just before half time when on 44’ they converted from a corner taken from the right. Their celebrations were cut short though as the near side lino put his flag up indicating offside. The ref blew for the break shortly after that, Ards able to breathe a sigh of relief as they went into the interval leading 1-0.

No changes for either team at the break…. Ards get the game going again.

Ards started the brighter of the two teams in the second half with the two Rosses up top combining well to create the first chance of the half. Arthurs effort on goal was always too high though, and Purcell was able to watch it sail over his bar. Ards kept up the pressure and were awarded a freekick out left on the edge of the 18-yard box, Young stepped up to take and saw his effort go just wide of the far post. Despite the early pressure in the half Ballyclare grabbed the next goal, equalising on 53’ as ex Ards boy McCurry broke through the defensive line far too easily. It was a cool finish, lifting it high over the advancing Moore and into the back of the net. I’m not sure how one of the smallest guys on the pitch managed to bully his way past our back line, but there was no doubt about the finish, very cool and never in doubt. The keeper once again left exposed and very little he could do to prevent the goal.

Ards quickly bounced back from the disappointment of conceding and created several chances of their own in quick succession but were unable to make any of them count. Just 2 mins after being pegged back there was a great chance to regain the lead on 55’ as Scannell sent in a corner from the Ards’ right. Two of the Ards forward line attacked the ball but couldn’t get a telling touch to force it over the line. Last-ditch blocks, combined with a bit of luck, saw Ballyclare frustrate Ards as they were finally able to clear the danger. A great passing move shortly thereafter by Ards, this time out wide left, saw Crane played through to go one-on-one with the goalkeeper. An unlikely target that high up the pitch, but Purcell read the danger and was out quickly to challenge the full back and make a telling save. The clash with the keeper left Crane on the floor, clearly hurt and requiring attention, but he was soon back on his feet.

Ards made a triple sub on 69’, introducing some fresh legs in a bid to raise the intensity and push on for a winner. Aaron Brown, Salou Jallow and Daniel Reynolds were all brought into the action while it was the end of the night for Ross Arthurs, Conal Young and early goal scorer Ross Hunter. Ards seemingly were the beneficiary of another contentious call on 74’ when McKendry was shown a yellow card. It was a rash challenge that, on another day, he may well have saw red for and certainly most of the visiting players were calling for just that. The game had turned very scrappy by this point in the proceedings and there were some very poor challenges as players started to tire. On 79’ Cricky Crane was on the receiving end of one such challenge, again requiring the attentions of club Physio Sam, but this time he couldn't continue and had to leave the field. Ben Mullen was brought on to replace the full back and the game got under way again.

85’ Ards put together one of the best moves of the game resulting in a Daniel Reynolds cross from the right finding Scannell at the back post, and the Ards number 7 made no mistake with the headed finish giving Ards the lead again with about 5 mins left on the clock. Scannell had found himself in a very similar position last time out against Annagh, a chance to put Ards into a 2-1 lead in the latter stages of the match but he got his header all wrong. No such issues this time, a brilliant ball played in from Reynolds and the Ards wide man made no mistake. Credit to Aaron Brown as well who did really well to control the ball in the middle of the park and play in Reynolds out wide and start the move. A great team goal, good enough to win any game.

With 5 mins to go, and an additional 5 mins of time added on, you could see some nerves creeping in, only to be expected after losing out in the dying moments against Annagh. This time though Ards dug deep and saw it out with some no nonsense defending, tough tacking and plenty of hard work seeing us to the final whistle. Tonight’s match sponsor named Kyle Calderwood as man of the match, something I think the majority of the ground would have agreed with. Tough tackling and very energetic from beginning to end, it was well deserved. His celebrations at the final whistle were something to behold.

No-one who saw that game tonight will be overly impressed by the quality of football on show, by either team, for vast portions of that game but ultimately the 3 points were what counted, and all the players and management team were well received by the home fans heading off after the final whistle. Ards showed a different side tonight, grinding out the win with much more determination, but also showing some moments of real quality at key times. The players have a bit of a break now after 3 games in the space of 8 days then we’re back on the road taking the long trip South to face Warrenpoint at Milltown. Relegated from the Premier League last season The Point have had a tough start to life back in the Championship. Hopefully we’ll have gained a bit of confidence from todays result and can kick on again next week.

Notable change was made in the first half when DeeDee McAllister had to leave the field to be replaced with the match winner Eamon Scannell. Fingers crossed that it was a precautionary change and that DeeDee will be be available again very soon.

Starting Line-up:

Moore, Crane, Taylor, McKendry, Hall, McAllister, Murray, Calderwood, Young, Hunter, Arthurs


Craughwell, Scanell, Jallow, Reynolds, Brown, Mullen, McVeigh

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