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  • Writer's pictureMichael Barritt

Ards 3 Ballyclare 3 – Match Report

NIFL Championship – 19/11/22

By Phillip Bartlett

All square as Murray sees red!!!

A great 35 minutes last week was enough to turn around Ards fortunes against the Welders resulting in a very flattering 5-2 victory but giving teams a head start may not always have such a happy outcome. Our second home meeting against Ballyclare of the season, the first resulting in a close 2-1 win, a similar result today would be very welcome. Ards last won back-to-back games at the start of October, winning 3 games on the bounce. Ballyclare have drawn their last two games but have also had some notable results scoring 5 goals in back-to-back games against Dundela and the Welders. Ards sit 2 places above todays opponents with a 4-point gap going into the game.

It’s safe to say Ards have found a settled side of late using the same starting 11 in the majority of games this season and it was this side that started today’s game, no changes from last weeks starting line-up. There was one change on the bench with DeeDee McAllister missing out being replaced by Salou Jallow. We also heard during the week that Aaron Brown and Jason Craughwell have left Ards to pursue other opportunities. It was a miserable night for football, the late kick off due to Bangor’s involvement in the Intermediate cup 2nd round. The rain started bang on time just for the players warm up and steadily worsened as the night went on, alongside the wind it made for very difficult playing conditions.

It has taken Ards until game week 16 to register their first draw of the season having thus far won 8 and lost 7, very little middle ground along the way. Ards won the first half 2-1 with Ballyclare winning the second half 2-1, the points shared with a 3-3 result. This was some effort by the home side having played close to an hour with ten men, captain TJ Murray having been dismissed for a second bookable offence. There was 2 goals a-piece for Ards’ Adam Salley and Ballyclare’s’ Gary Donnelly while Greg Hall and Caomhan McGuinness grabbed the other goals for their respective sides. Adam Salley opened the scoring before Caomhan McGuinness levelled 15 mins later. Ards centre half Greg Hall nipped in with a goal late in the first half to give Ards the lead at the break. Ex-Ards boy Gary Donnelly was there to spoil the fun equalising a second time for Ballyclare. Salley struck from the penalty spot 2 mins later to give Ards the lead for the 3rd time only for Donnelly to grab his second 15 minutes from time and equalising a 3rd time.

Ards two goal hero Salley getting close attention from the Ballyclare back line

Decent start from both sides, looking to attack from the off. Ards earned themselves a couple of back-to-back corners, looking to make a fast start but Ballyclare hit back with early chances of their own. Neither keeper involved in those early stages but a sign of things to come and on 7’ Moore was called upon making two fantastic saves within a minute of each other to keep it 0-0. Excellent keeping from the Ards shot stopper, saving first from a powerful Donnelly shot from 14yds out then following it up with an even better save, keeping out McConville’s powerful header. He had to be at full stretch to stop this one, managing to get a strong hand on it and allowing his team mates to finally clear the danger. Ards lucky not to be behind, again Moore to the rescue. There was no time for him to catch his breath however as Ballyclare were getting continued joy own the Ards left with the pacey McCurry causing plenty of problems. This time he picked the ball up inside the Ards half, easily beat his man to reach the by-line. He then cut the ball back into the Ards danger area finding Tully towards the near post, he took one touch to control and produce a good shot at the near post but again Moore was positioned well and made another smart save.

As we have seen time and time again in this league teams on top that don’t take their chances tend to get punished. This logic tends to go against Ards but in this instance, Ards were the beneficiaries breaking the deadlock, somewhat against the run of play as Salley popped up to convert on 13’ to extend his tally for the season. Young was the creator, doing well wide right to find a bit of room and send the ball across goal. Salley was on his toes and managed to get across his marker to get a telling touch and slide it past the Breen into the back of the net.

There was a nervy moment for Ards as a mix up at the back nearly cost them, Moore played a routine ball out to Taylor who looked to return the ball to the keeper but left it short. Moore couldn’t make up the distance as Tully spotted the mistake early, fortunately for Ards a combination of Tully’s first touch and pressure from Moore sent him wide of the near post not allowing for a first time effort. He recovered and did get a shot away, but Moore had done well to get back in position and set himself for the shot, making the block near post and sending it out for a corner. Ards lucky to escape in that one but 2 mins later it was all square. Caomhan McGuiness found himself in acres of space in the Ards penalty box, he had far too much time allowing him to control and pick his spot before smashing his shot past Moore into the back of the net. Ards switching off and paying the price.

'Cricky' Crane looking to create for Ards on the left

There was a two-minute period in the first half when the officiating team was under real scrutiny following some questionable decisions that went against the home side. On 34’ minutes Ards were on the attack and as the ball was played into the box it seemed to be a clear hand ball by the ‘Clare defence. The ref waved it away, huge appeals from the home side falling on deaf ears. Arguably adding insult to injury, just 90 seconds later Ards were reduced to 10 men as TJ was shown a red card following a second yellow card, this one for an alleged dive on 36’. Having earlier been cautioned for a late challenge it was the end of the night for the Ards captain, the armband passed to Paddy Cafolla before leaving the field. With 55 odd minutes left to play Ards had it all to do.

An already action-packed half still had more left in store for those supporters who had braved the elements as Ards took and unlikely lead into the break. Despite going a man down, Ards increased the pressure, and it paid off as Greg Hall popped up on 42’ to put Ards back in the lead. Scannell played the ball in to the box where it bounced around a time or too until Taggart sent it towards goal, the shot was tame and wouldn’t have troubled Breen, but Hall nipped in to get a telling touch to take it away from the Ballyclare keeper and into the back of the net.

2-1 Ards, with a couple of minutes left in the half before the ref blew up for the interval having played an additional 1 minute of time added on.

Ballyclare start the second half, no changes by either side at the break.

Similar start to the second half as the first, both teams looking to attack. Hunter went close for Ards in the opening minutes while McCurry was causing more trouble for the Ards defenders with his pace. Again neither keepers troubled but signs that the scoring for this one was not quite done just yet. That proved to be the case when Ballyclare equalised for a second time on the hour mark. At first glance it looked like Conal McGrandles got a touch in the box to divert the ball past Moore, but the goal was awarded to corner taker Gary Donnelly. Seemingly the ball went straight in from the dead ball, with no footage to fall back on we must defer to the referee’s report and give the goal to Donnelly.

Ards didn’t let their heads drop despite losing their lead for a second time and being a man down, quite the opposite as they went up the other end and restored their lead just 2 mins later as Adam Salley grabbed his second of the night from the penalty spot, Conall Young having been clearly fouled while attacking the Ballyclare box. No mistake from Salley from the spot sending Breen the wrong way, Ards in front for the 3rd time in the game 3-2. The remaining 10 Ards players were putting in one hell of a shift but on 76’ Ballyclare once again equalised, this time coming through a Gary Donnelly long range effort. Difficult one to stop as Moore was unsighted and it skipped off the wet surface finding the bottom corner of the goal. Disappointing for a tiring Ards side who still had close to 15 mins to see the game out. The home side seemingly decided that attack is the best form of defence as they certainly didn’t sit back and try to see it out for the remainder of the game as they arguably created the best of the chances in the last part of the game, Eamon Scannell trying his best to grab Ards a late winner.

Ards' Conall Young heavily involved in the goals, setting up 1 and winning Ards a second half penalty

As you would expect Ballyclare also had designs on a later winner with the man advantage and it nearly came on two occasions in the last couple of minutes, both chances coming through Ex Ards men. Donnelly, looking for his hat trick, hit a vicious shot from just outside the box on 88’. It was really well hit, going for the top corner, but Moore was once again equal to it and made another outstanding save. Darius Roohi stepped up next, hitting an excellent shot again from distance on 90+2. For one crushing moment I watched it sail all the way into the net before Moore, at the very last second, managed to get a hand to it and tip it onto the bar. Really close call right at the death as that proved to be the last kick of the game.

After 3 mins of time added on were complete, the ref blew the final whistle bringing the game to and end along with a sigh of relieve for the RABA in attendance. A really hard-fought point in for Ards, in terrible conditions and under the circumstances, having lost the lead 3 times it would have been very easy to drop the heads and lose that late on but each and every man on that pitch put in a real shift and deserved the result. MOTM could really only have gone to one man, Alex Moore once again being highlighted for his outstanding performance by the match sponsors

Ards number 1 Alex Moore being presented with his MOTM award after another fantastic display

Ards next game sees them travel south to Milltown to take on Warrenpoint. This will be our second visit to the ‘Point’ this season, having already lost 2-1 last time in a somewhat controversial ending that saw a perfectly good Ards equaliser chalked off for a foul in the build-up. Warrenpoint are on a decent run of form at the minute, so we’ll have to be at our best to get anything from this one on the road.

Starting Line-up:

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


McKendry, Arthurs, Mullen, Jallow, McVeigh, Calderwood, Reynolds

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