By Jana McCabe
When Ards met Linfield at the National Stadium in early September, the Red & Blues secured a hard fought away point. This time round, with injury problems for the home side gradually starting to disappear, second from bottom Ards looked to take much-needed points from title contenders Linfield.
A fifth minute substitution saw Eamon McAllister leave the field through injury and he was replaced by Jonah Mitchell.
However it didn’t take Ards long to have their first chance and first goal of the game when Josh Kelly’s skilful play beat Kirk Millar. His pass found Jonah Mitchell and his accurate cross connected with the head of Mark Kelly whose header sailed past Roy Carroll into the top right corner to make it 1-0 in the ninth minute.
Linfield’s Matthew Clarke’s shot curled wide of the left post in the nineteenth minute as Linfield looked for a leveller. Linfield then had a goal disallowed for offside when Daniel Kearns’s free kick saw Joshua Robinson’s header find the back of the net.
In the thirtieth minute, great work from David McAllister saw him beat three defenders with Josh Kelly’s shot from the edge of the box just off target. McAllister had another opportunity in the thirty seventh minute but his shot from outside the box was just over the bar.
Clever play from Kym Nelson found Josh Kelly in a dangerous position, with his smart pass finding Craig McClean whose shot was saved by Linfield stopper Carroll in the forty second minute. The half ended 1-0.
In the forty ninth minute, Joel Cooper’s shot inside the box was well saved by Johnston. Three minutes later Andrew Mitchell’s curling cross couldn’t connect with any of the Linfield players in the box as they pushed for a equaliser.
Gareth Tommons’s corner found David Elebert whose strong header was off target in the fiftieth minute. In the sixtieth minute Johnston came out of his net to stop Robinson’s shot as the end to end action continued.
It was Linfield who scored next in the sixty sixth minute when Joel Cooper’s curling cross to substitute Niall Quinn saw his shot find the back of the net to make it 1-1.
Callum Byers then denied goal scorer Niall Quinn with a crucial header to clear the danger as Linfield looked to take all three points. Ards then had another goal scoring opportunity in the sixty ninth minute when McAllister found Kym Nelson who tried his luck from outside the box with his shot crashing off the post.
Ards did get their second in the seventieth minute when Mark Kelly kept his composure and skilfully beat a number of Linfield defenders before his strong strike from near the right hand side byline found the back of the net. A great goal with an even better celebration made it 2-1.
Quinn continued to be dangerous with his shot saved by Johnston in the seventy eighth minute. In the next minute, Quinn’s curling corner was stopped by the busy Johnston.
Substitute Michael McLellan then showed skill to find Jonah Mitchell but he couldn’t control the ball, with McAllister’s shot shortly afterwards from the left hand side of the box just over.
In the eighty eighth minute a Jordan Stewart chance and a scramble made Johnston produce another fine save. Linfield kept pushing for an equaliser until the final whistle with Waterworth’s free kick being saved, with no Linfield player able to pounce on the rebound and the danger was cleared. The game ended 2-1 with Mark Kelly deservedly picking up Man Of The Match.
What a day for the Blue and Red Army! A great team performance sees Ards move up to tenth. Attentions now turn to Tuesday’s clash in the County Antrim Shield with Larne at Inver Park.
Starting 11: Sam Johnston, Callum Byers, David Elebert, Johnny Taylor, Craig McClean, Eamon McAllister, Josh Kelly, Gareth Tommons, Kym Nelson, David McAllister and Mark Kelly
Used substitutes: Jonah Mitchell (for Eamon McAllister), Kyle Cherry (for Gareth Tommons) and Michael McLellan (for Mark Kelly).
Unused substitutes: Jason Mooney, Michael Kerr, Adam McAleenan and Scott McArthur.