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  • Writer's pictureMichael Barritt

Ards 2 Institute 2 – Match Report














NIFL Playr-Fit Championship – 27/01/24

By Phillip Bartlett

 

Ards Pay Late Penalty

Ards make do with a point against league leaders as late penalty award denies victory.

 

Institute make the long trek east to mark John Bailies first home game of his second spell in the Ards FC managerial hotseat having taken charge the previous week as a weakened Ards squad succumbed to high flying Annagh United. Everyone associated with the RABA will be hopeful that the squad will be sufficiently bolstered by those returning to action as the current league leaders will pose just as stern a test. Ards will face todays opponents in back-to-back games having drawn the NW side in the next round of the Irish Cup after their well reported success against the holders Crusaders at Seaview a couple of weeks ago. That performance and result is well forgotten now as we get back to the bread and butter of league competition and ensuring we end the season on a high. A tall order today, as previously mentioned ‘Stute currently hold top spot in the league and certainly have had Ards’ number this season having found ways to win both previous meetings with a 3-2 scoreline. Previous meetings indicate there will be goals, it would also suggest that Ards getting any kind of positive result would be a hard ask, but the season has been so very unpredictable, and I expect more of the same in this one.

 


Ards manager John Bailie's first home fixture since his second appointment at the helm


Ards were devasted by suspension, injury and illness last time out when the squad travelled to face Annagh with several first team starters being ruled out for one reason or another. It was a tough start to the new gaffers reign, but happy to report that we have much more robust squad to select from this time round. New signing Ryan Arthur retains his spot in the heart of defence and is joined by the returning Adam McCallum as Matt Gorman drops to the bench having received a knock last week. Max Greer and Michael Ruddy come back in as either side full back, with Alex Moore firmly lodged between the posts as always. A more familiar lineup in the middle of the park, Ethan Taggart back in linking up with Cafolla and Steele while Max Miller and Callum Dougan welcome back Eamon Scannell from suspension as he joins them as part of an attacking trio with more than 1 eye on their defensive duties when required. Additional resources are available on the bench should they be required with Ross Hunter, James McLaughlin and DeeDee McAllister all ready and able. New signing Joshua Andrews is also named on the bench and may well make his Ards debut if called upon. Institute have also done some good business in the window with Ex NI international Daniel Lafferty coming in, he finds himself on the bench alongside newly signed striker BJ Banda who comes in from Larne.

 

Not since the end of November have Ards went into half time leading but that record was finally broken today, Ards doing enough to take a slender 1-0 into the break, Paddy Cafolla’s 39th minute header separating the sides. A deserved lead, Ards doing most of the early running as an attacking threat and standing resolute at the back. There were a few nervy moments, ‘Stute are a good side going forward, but Ards did well to keep them out when necessary. Teams back out for the second half, Ards looking for more of the same, but that plan was out the window early, Institute grabbing an equaliser 5 minutes after the restart as the home side failed to clear their lines when in complete control. Ards didn’t drop their heads after the early set back, continuing to press high and create chances, and really should have retaken their lead a lot earlier than they eventually did, Ethan Taggart persevering to eventually see the ball over the line following a cracking James McLaughlin free kick crashed off the cross bar. Ards 2-1 to the good with less than 5 minutes to go but the fan celebrations were cruelly cut off as referee Dunlop pointed to the spot as we ticked over to the 90’ minute mark after new man Ryan Arthur handled the ball on the goal line. The Ards centre half was rightly shown a straight red after which ‘Stute captain Kennedy stepped up and made no mistake from 12 yards. 2-2 the scoreline as we went into time added on, level on the scoreline but Ards now a man down for the remainder of time added on. The 5 additional minutes seemed interminable for those in red and blue, but eventually the whistle came and with it a huge measure of relief alongside a first hard-earned point in 3 games.


Paddy Cafolla guides in the opening goal of the game

 

Institute got this game going, the home side attacking the Clandeboye road end in the first half, and it wasn’t long before Ards found themselves up towards the road as Paddy Cafolla was in on goal in the opening seconds of the game. An early ball over the top, Cafolla ran on to it and challenged Muldoon in the air. The Ards man won the ball, but it was directed out for a goal kick. Ards kept up the early pressure, Arthur sending a ball up the left flank for Ruddy to run on to. It was just a bit over hit but Ards intent down the left very evident even this early on. Great boost for Ards to welcome back Eamon Scannell after serving his suspension for his harsh red card against todays opponent back in December. The Ards #7 working himself some space on 9’ as he attacked the Stute defence, turning inside before turning back onto his favoured left foot. He looked to hit outside of the boot goalwards but got it wrong sending it across goal and out of harms way, Muldoon not troubled. Didn’t work out that time, but positive intent on his return.

 

Scannell was back in the thick of it 5 mins later as he was picked out on the left with a sublime Aidan Steele pass from the middle of the park. It opened up the whole pitch and Scannell was able to carry it to the byline before lifting the ball into the box. It reached Max Miller who’d raced into the box, but it was just slightly behind him making it difficult to adjust and get a shot on target. Great flowing move from Ards, getting in behind the opposition with ease. The opening 20 minutes was all Ards, Institute soaking up the pressure early on and yet to threaten in the Ards final 3rd. Michael Harris was working hard down the right, using his pace well, and it was that pace that finally got Stute in behind and created their first real opportunity of the game. A great run, getting the better of Ruddy in left back before lifting a really dangerous ball into the centre of the Ards 6-yard box. Moore was unable to come but Max Greer had positioned himself perfectly and was able to head clear about 3 yards from goal. A great clearance while under pressure.

 

Chance of the game on 26’ and Ards should have opened the deadlock as Eamon Scannell was played through on goal by Max Miller. The run was timed to perfection, great first-time control to make the chance for himself and with only Muldoon to beat in the Stute goal he’s not been able to find the finish. Credit to the keeper, he was out quickly to put Scannell off but the Ards man will be very disappointed not to have opened the scoring there as nearly everyone in the ground was expecting the net to bulge. Up until this point the away team had been largely quiet going forward but started to impose themselves more and more and the time went on, increasing the pressure with set pieces in and around the box and from the corner flags. McKinney varying the delivery and on 36’ opted to lay it off to Devlin just outside the box, his shot was well blocked by and Ards leg but the second ball was lifted into the box where Moore was able to claim before an Institute man could reach it.


A welcome return from suspension for Ards influential Eamon Scannell

 

With Institute making more and more inroads into the Ards final 3rd it was somewhat ironic that Ards went on to break the deadlock and take the lead as we edged towards the interval. Another Eamon Scannell corner from the left, sent deep into the box where captain Ruddy headed it back across goal keeping it alive. Cafolla saw it coming all the way and added his head to the mix to deftly direct it back across Muldoon as he looked to set himself. It was a well-directed header, both keeper and defenders no chance as it nestled into the far corner of the net. Ards 1-0 up with just under 5 mins left in the opening 45. That was nearly it for the first half action but there was time for an Institute free kick in a really dangerous area. It was roughly 30 yards from goal and gave the away side the chance to bring everyone up and send it into the box. Harris took the kick, it was a bit of a waste under the circumstances as Ruddy and McCallum combined to easily clear the danger and take us into the break, the whistle sounding as the ball was ‘hoiked’ clear.

 

No changes for Ards at the break, the same 11 take to the field after the interval. Ards get the game going looking to protect their 1-0 advantage.


Ards Ethan Taggart under pressure in the middle of the park

 

While Ards got the game going again it was Institute doing all the early running, a sense of urgency about the side after the half time team talks. An early ‘Stute corner was well cleared by Ards but the pressure increased and Institute levelled after 5 early second half minutes. It was a goal that Ards could easily have avoided as they failed to clear their lines after initially escaping from an earlier threat. Institute had been awarded a free kick wide left on 50’. Shane Boyle sent it in, missed everyone in white but in attacking to clear the ball Ruddy managed to deflect it towards his own goal. Fortunately, it hit off the post and went to safety on the Ards left, danger seemingly averted. At this stage the ball should have been sent clear, but we dawdled on it and were caught out, Stute stealing the ball and setting up Caoimhin Porter for a shot on goal. It was well struck and despite getting a good hand on it Moore was unable to keep it out. 1-1 the scoreline early in the second half, a disappointing goal to concede as it could easily have been avoided.

 

Crazy moment of the game award came just 3 mins later as Ards should have retaken their lead, Max Miller having been gifted the chance of the game. Miller used his pace to great affect on the right wing chasing down a long ball played up field. Stute keeper Muldoon came rushing off his line, huge favourite to win the ball at Millers feet, so much so that Miller actually pulled out of the challenge towards the end to avoid clashing with the keeper. I’m not sure what transpired after this point, but the half challenge seemed to confuse Muldoon, having probably expected a collision he instead inexplicably dropped the ball at Millers feet. With the goalkeeper prone on the floor Miller had the goal at his mercy but was unable to finish instead sliding the ball wide of the post. It was a really tight angle to score from and easy to say from where I was standing but he seemed to have time to drag it inside and make an easier chance for himself but clearly very different when in the thick of things.

 

The game followed the same pattern as both sides looked to create chances while holding tight at the back, neither side really dominating the game nor putting either backline under sustained pressure. It was very nip and tuck, the play confined to the middle of the park for long spells. As we neared the final 5 mins of normal time the touch paper was lit and the game seemed to explode, both teams looking to try and steal it late on. It was Institute that went closest to grabbing a second goal as new signing and recent sub BJ Banda was inches away from scoring at the near post. Great work by the Stute captain Kennedy to hold the ball in the Ards box until the right pass presented itself. A square pass to Banda and he reached it at the near post before Moore but was unable to turn it into the net. Just after that effort Ards went up the other end and were awarded a free kick about 30 yards from goal just right of the goal. Ards sub James McLaughlin stepped up to take it an smashed a great effort goalwards, the ball moved all over the place, causing Muldoon problems in the Institute goal. Such was the power of the shot he was only able to palm it onto the bar after which it fell perfectly for Taggart who’d followed up the initial shot. While he should really have scored with the initial header, Muldoon somehow managing to get enough on it to deny the Ards#12, but with a further bit of fortune it didn’t get too far away from him, he was able to regain his feet quickly and made no mistake second time around as he fired into the back of the net. Ards retake the lead, 2-1 with under 5 mins of normal time remaining.


Taggart and Scannell celebrating Ards goal as they take the lead for the second time

 

Ards had their lead back and seemed very determined to hold on to it but Institute didn’t give up, kept pressing until the final stages and eventually that pressure told, the away side were awarded a penalty following a Ryan Arthur deliberate handball on the goal line. Denying a clear goal the Ards centre half was rightly shown a red card for his troubles. Ards now down to 10 men with time added on to go as Stute captain Kennedy stepped up making no mistake as he smashed the ball past Moore into the net. 2-2 as we edged into injury time. The ref indicated 5 mins time added on was to be played so Ards had to dig in a man down to keep their point and that is what they did. It wasn’t pretty but it was hard fought and well deserved on the balance of play. The time added on seemed to last forever for the home supporters but eventually the ref did blow up bringing the game to an end, final score 2-2 and the first point for JB in his second spell in charge.

 

I expect before the game started most Ards fans would have been happy with a point but how the game panned out at the end there would have been disappointment that we couldn’t hold out for the 3 points having taken the lead so close to the death. A tough team to play against but Ards once again proved they can give anyone a game on their day. Here’s hoping we get more days like that and build towards a level of consistency for the remaining games this season.

 

Aidan Steele was named the Sponsors Man of the Match, deservedly so. Worked his socks off in the middle of the park breaking up the play when required but also pivotal in getting Ards turned and playing the right direction when in possession of the ball.


Ards FC sponsors Man of the Match Aidan Steele

 

Same opposition again next week as we travel to the Brandywell this time, Institute standing in our way in the Irish Cup this time. Ards have announced several new signings in the window so far, hopefully some or all will be available for selection next week to bolster the squad further. We will be without the suspended Ryan Arthur so changes will be made at the back as we look to carry on the cup run following the stunning result against Crusaders in the first round. A nice wee distraction from the league for a week.

 

 

Starting Line-up:

Moore, Greer, McCallum, Arthur, Ruddy, E Scannell, Cafolla, Taggart, Steele, Dougan, Miller

 

Substitutes:

Shields, Gorman, McLaughlin, McAllister, Andrews, Bayliss, Hunter

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