NIFL Championship – 10/12/22
By Phillip Bartlett
Moore saves the day late on for Ards
Ards grabbed their second draw of the season at home to Institute in a match I have mostly forgotten about already, 2 goals scored but very little outside of that to redeem the game. Today gives us an opportunity to put on a better show while also turning the tables on Championship new boys Newington, having fallen to a 2-1 defeat when they last came to Clandeboye Park back in November. That was another dreary affair with very little good to talk about, a common theme on too many occasions for my liking this season. Despite being new to the league and in 9th position, Newington are the joint 5th top goal scorers having hit 28 goals in their opening 16 games. They know how to find the net so Ards will need to be tight at the back to limit their chances.
Some festive entertainment today at Clandeboye Park from Comber Brass band
Ards went into this one without Championship player of the Month for November Adam Salley, something we will have to get used to as he heads back to parent club Portadown when the transfer window opens in January. Ross Arthurs comes in to lead the attack and replace Salley while Ross Hunter is back in the starting 11, Calum McVeigh dropping back to the bench. Daniel Reynolds is back on the bench while Paddy Cafolla continues his run as captain with TJ Murray working on getting back to match fitness. Ben Mullen adds to his recent run in the side playing alongside Greg Gall in the heart of the defence.
Ards converted two of several chances they managed to carve out in the opening 45 minutes to take a commanding lead at the break and while Newington had their chances as well, they failed to really test Alex Moore in the Ards goal until late in the second half. Patrick Cafolla opened the deadlock with a great strike from distance on 11’, Ross Hunter doubling the lead on 37’ with a header at the back post. There was plenty of excitement in the second half as Newington tried to make a game of it and Ards found themselves exposed on several occasions. Poor finishing from the away team ensured Ards retained their two-goal lead until the 80th minute when Morgan eventually found the target and beat Moore giving them renewed hope as we moved into the last 10 mins. It was a nervy time for Ards as Newington pressed for an equaliser and with just a minute left, Ards thinking they had probably done enough to hold onto the 3 points, the ref pointed to the spot gifting Newington a chance to take an unlikely point. Not for the first time this season however, Alex Moore stepped up and proved to be the difference saving the spot kick low down to his right. That was the last kick of the game sparking wild celebrations from the home team as the entire bench flooded onto the pitch after the final whistle to congratulate their hero in pink.
Newington seemed to take some time to settle into this one as Ards burst out of the traps early on, Young and Jallow looking to test Maybin in the opening minutes. Both had shots on goal blocked in the opening 4 minutes of the game after some good work down the right, but there was too many bodies in the way and the danger was cleared. It wasn’t long before Ards’ bright start was rewarded, Cafolla finding the back of the net on 11’ to open the scoring. Again, Ards proved dangerous down the right, Taggart finding the speed to make it to the by-line. His floated cross was met by Mullen’s head, but it was off target and was cleared by a Newington boot, but only as far as Cafolla. He set himself and hit the back of the net close to 25 yards from goal. Maybin in the Newington goal would have been unsighted as it travelled through a mass of bodies before finding the far corner. It was a really well hit strike and would have given the keeper trouble regardless, the celebration afterwards was unexpected but if you score a goal like that you can celebrate however you see fit.
Paddy Cafolla with a 'unique' celebration after giving Ards the lead
Ards continued to press and moments later ‘Cricky’ Crane found himself with an excellent chance to double the lead coming in from the left. Ross Arthurs had carried the ball to the by-line and spotted the full backs run into the box, his deft back heel was perfectly weighted and played into his path, but Crane’s shot was high and wide of the far post. Opting to use the outside of his left foot whereas he might have been better served going with his right. Ards did eventually get their second goal of the game, Ross Hunter popping up at the back post with a brilliantly directed downward header. Arthurs again involved, this time with a deep cross from the right, pinpoint accuracy to find Hunter’s head, Maybin unable to react in time and it was in the back of the net. Ards deserved of their 2-0 lead as the half came to a close.
Newington didn’t create much as an attacking threat in the opening 45 and any chances they did have coming as a result of some sloppy play at the back by Ards gifting them opportunities. Gary Warwick seemed the most likely to pull Newington back into the game, the #8 wasting 2 great chances pulling both shots wide of the far post. Could easily have converted both on another day.
Ross Hunter was on target again today as he gave Ards a 2-0 lead late in the first half
After an additional minute of time added on the ref took us into the interval Ards 2-0 and in control thus far. They’ll be happy with their efforts as an attacking threat but if not for some poor finishing the score line could have been quite different.
The teams were back out for the second half, Ards remained unchanged after the break while the opposition made a couple of changes. Newington restarted the game from the centre circle just as a barrage of heavy hail rained down around the ground.
Salou Jallow has been enjoying his recent run in the team and was very lively wide right in the opening stages of the second half, using his pace to get Ards up the pitch. He combined well with Taggart on 50’ before sending a dangerous cross into the box looking for the run of Arthurs. He tried to come across the keeper but couldn’t make up the distance and Maybin was able to collect on the bounce, danger averted. Jallow was at it again just 4 mins later, Conall Young thinking quickly from an Ards throw catching out substitute Jack Reilly in the left back spot. Salou was on his toes and ran beyond the defender to pick the ball up and head for goal. He reached the by-line and checked his options in the box, but the cross was a waste, hit far too hard and high sailing over everyone in red and blue going out on the far side. Promising build up play but the final ball lacking.
There were plenty of signs that the scoring in this one wasn’t over just yet, both teams going close on the hour mark. Ross Arthurs has been proving a constant thorn up top, setting up chances and goals for his team mates earlier in the piece. This time he was in on goal looking to get himself on the sheet, a great ball played between the lines putting him through on goal. He was forced slightly wide of goal but still was in a good position to extend Ards’ lead further. It was a well hit strike that tested Maybin at his near post, but he was equal to it parrying it away to his right. He didn’t get a lot of distance on the clearance, but Matthew Gorman was on hand just before Eamon Scannell could close him down and nick it off him. Newington had their best chance to get back into the game on 62’ following a huge scramble in the Ards penalty area. There were challenges and last-ditch blocks-a-plenty with Morgan getting the last meaningful touch for the opposition. It had momentarily escaped Moore, the Ards man seeming to have to dive backwards to finally smoother and collect the ball. A frantic few seconds but Ards escape with their two goal lead still intact.
Ross Arthurs goes close to extending Ards lead
Newington had lifted it considerably going into the last 20 mins, no doubt spurred on as Ards dropped deeper and deeper allowing them to play through them much easier. Warwick will wonder how he hasn’t grabbed himself at least one goal today given the chances that were afforded him. The wasteful finishing and Ards reprieves could only last for so long and on 80’ they had their reward and a way back into the game as Morgan finally took advantage. Nothing Moore could do on this occasion, 2-1 the score heading into the last 10 minutes. An exciting end to the game as two penalty calls could well have settled the game, one given and one not given, but both disputed. Ards, still winning 2-1 at this stage, were somehow denied a penalty on 84’. I’m not quite sure what the officials saw but there was a challenge in the box, the player went down, the ball was not won but no action was taken. I dare say the man in the middle had his reasons but none that we’ll ever know about.
With the 90 minutes gone the near side official was kind enough to tell me that there would be 4 additional minutes. With the clock ticking down, Ards convinced they had done enough to earn the 3 points, the ref awarded Newington a last-minute penalty for a challenge in the box. The home side protested vociferously but were eventually waved away, it seemed a harsh call from the side line, again an on-field decision that was hard to discern. Hopefully the video highlights will provide some clarity. The kick was awarded, giving Warwick his best chance of the game to earn his team a point, but Moore once again rose to the occasion. The keeper guessed correctly and made a great save diving to his right. It wasn’t the best hit penalty, but Moore wasn’t to be beaten. The second ball fell in the box but Ards managed to clear and trigger the final whistle securing a hard earned 2-1 win. The home bench emptied onto the pitch making a beeline to Moore, who once again rescued Ards.
Alex Moore coming up trumps for Ards saving a last minute penalty in terrible conditions
Eamon Scannell was nominated MOTM for this one but it ended up being shared with Moore getting in on the action for his last minute heroics. Well-deserved on both counts. Ards bounced up a place in the league to 4th but 5th place Warrenpoint have 2 games in hand as their game today fell victim to the weather. The next two on the road for Ards as we enter the busy Christmas period, setting off west to Dergview next week. Always a difficult place to go and one where Ards always seem to struggle to get any sort of positive result. Hopefully we have a bit of confidence from this one, it was far from pretty but well deserved and hard fought.
Ards #1 leaves the pitch to applause having rescued his side at the death
Moore, Crane, Mullen, Hall, Young, Cafolla (C), Taggart, Scannell, Arthurs, Jallow, Hunter
McKendry, Taylor, Calderwood, Murray, McVeigh, Reynolds, Boyd