NIFL Championship – 21/01/23
By Phillip Bartlett
Another ‘Pointless’ outing for Ards
Defensive frailties again on show as ‘5-star’ Warrenpoint twice hit back.
Ards welcomed Warrenpoint to Clandeboye Park this weekend, the first home game against the Southdown side this season having travelled to Milltown twice already. Currently 1 all in wins this gives both sides the opportunity to press on in the league. Last time out Point were shown 3 red cards, 2 on pitch and 1 on the side-line, and Ards took full advantage eventually running out 4-1 winners. Ards have lost 4 out of their last 5 in all competitions and really need to get back to winning ways. Warrenpoint were 5 points clear of Ards going into this one with a very inconsistent run of later.
Ards continue to do business in the transfer window brining in another 2 players with the recent signings of fullback Chris McDonald and midfielder Conor Scannell. McDonald will be available for this fixture while C Scannell will have to wait for his first outing. Few changes to the starting line up as manager Tipton tries to find the right mix to get Ards back on track. Centre half Johnny Taylor is brought back in to partner Ben Mullen in defence while Greg Hall, making his 200th appearance for Ards, is moved into left back replacing Cricky Crane for this one. Conal Young reverts to his more natural right back position after playing a more advanced role in the last couple of games. A more familiar midfield 3 and attacking trio as Ross Hunter returns to join E Scannell and Adam Salley up top. TJ Murray is back the middle of the park taking back the captains armband from recent stand in Paddy Cafolla. New signings Shields, Hamill, Steele and McDonald are all on the bench for this one.
Ards shot out of the blocks at the start of both ‘halfs’, catching Warrenpoint on the back foot on both occasions, but despite taking the lead on two occasions, indeed racing into a 2-goal lead after just 6 first half minutes, Ards were undone by a combination of their own defensive frailties and some brilliant performances in the away team. Ards got the perfect start, 2 Adam Salley goals in 6 minutes both shocking and delighting the home fans, the RABA hoping we can kick on and put the game beyond the Point in the 1st half. We were unable to do that as Warrenpoint worked their way back into the game, Ryan Swan getting them back into it on 25’. Ards were kept on the back foot for the remainder of the half, unable to really create anything in the attacking third. Just when it seemed we’d done enough to get in at the break with a lead intact, a Conal Young misplaced pass presented Carroll with a chance, and he equalised 3 minutes into time added on. Ards again sprung out of the traps at the start of the second half, Greg Hall putting Ards back into the lead after just 2 minutes. The lead lasted 10 mins as Adam Carroll equalised again for Point after which they didn’t look back kicking on and grabbing 2 more goals through Swan and Carroll to take the game 5-3 at the final whistle. Disappointment for the home side after doing so well to carve out and score the early chances but mistakes at the back continue to cost us each and every game.
Adam Salley giving an Ards a very early lead at the near post
Ards forward Adam Salley could scarcely believe his luck as he bagged two goals in the opening 6 minutes, following several games without adding to his tally. The first, on 3’, was from a corner on the Ards right. Fired in by Eamon Scannell Salley has escaped his man, cut across the near post and finished well between upright and Mitchell in the Point goal. Excellent start by the home side. Ards and Salley weren’t done there, and the number 25 doubled Ards lead just 3 mins later latching on to a perfectly weighted Ethan Taggart through ball. It should have been cleared by Point defender Daniel Byrne, but he missed the ball, Salley nipped through and finished well past the on rushing Conor Mitchell. Ards in dreamland early on, 2-0 after a blistering start.
Ards carried on trying to press and hold on to the ball but after being on the back foot early you could see Warrenpoint were slowly starting to get into the game pressing Ards further and further back towards their own goal. Ryan Swan, who proved to be a handful all day, was the first to threaten with a header just over the bar on 11’ from Balls dangerous cross. Point captain McCaffrey then went close with a curling effort inside the box, Moore saw it sail harmlessly over the bar. Warrenpoint eventually capitalised on their possession and dominance, Ryan Swan pulling one back on 26’ with an easy finish past Moore after some good passing. Ards centre half Mullen had a couple of chances to clear the danger but ultimately allowed Carroll to get the other side of him and lay it off to Swan for an easy finish.
The away side drew level in the 3rd minute of time added on at the end of the first half. Stoppage time having been added due to an injury and subsequent substitution of Ross Hunter who was feeling unwell. He was replaced by Daniel Reynolds on 38. Ards looked to have done enough to take their lead into the break, but Points Adam Carroll had other ideas. Young carried the ball out from right back, Ards in no trouble at all, but his pass into the middle of the park was straight Luke Walsh. Walsh carried the call forward before playing it wide to O’Sullivan. His floated cross was met by the head of Carroll who managed to lift it over Moore into the far top corner of the goal. Point level just on the stroke of half time.
The ref took us into the interval as soon as the play was restarted, all square 2-2. Ards with a fast start but barely got a look in after the opening 10 minutes.
No changes for Ards at the break as we get the game going again.
A similar start to the second half as the first, Ards on the front foot and Ards taking an early lead, 3-2 following Greg Halls finish after just 2 minutes of the second half. Halls’ finish will definitely spare the blushes of some in an Ards shirt as it looked like a glaring miss in front of an open net for TJ Murray so he’ll be glad that the rebound was turned in. An Eamon Scannell corner from the right was flicked on at the near post by Salley, it found TJ in acres of space with an open goal but he’s somehow managed to head it on to the underside of the cross bar. Point tried to clear but Hall threw himself at it and managed to lift it over Mitchell and into the back of the net. Fitting for the man celebrating his 200th appearance for Ards, 3-2 the score, Ards back in front.
Ards' Greg Hall, 200 games for Ards and grabbed himself a goal in this one
Patterns are evident in a lot of sporting endeavours and we saw the same unravelling in the second half as the first. Ards with a fast start, take an early lead, Point work themselves back into the game and Ards can’t handle it. Ards lead again lasted some 10 minutes before Carroll Grabbed his second of the game on 56’. Again Ards had ample opportunity to clear the danger but allowed Carroll to win the ball in the air, Hall missed an easy clearance and Carroll stepped on to the second ball finishing well in the far corner. Moore no chance having been unsighted at point of contact. 3-3, Ards again relinquishing a lead. As in the first half Point pressed on and Ards hardly got a look in for the remaining half hour of the game outside of a brilliant Eamon Scannell effort that crashed back off the post. That was when the scores were still 3-3 and could have made a big difference to the outcome of this one but Warrenpoint were able to clear the second ball, Scannell so unlucky there.
Ards new signing Chris McDonald making his debut against Warrenpoint
Just a few minutes after Ards hit the post Warrenpoint found themselves in front for the first time in the game, Ryan Swan grabbing his second and Points 4th of the game on 72’. Ards afforded the front man far too much time and space in the box, allowing him to control the ball with his back to goal, turn in the box and fire past a helpless Moore. Poor defending in the Ards area, with no attempt to close down the man or the effort on goal. Getting exactly what we deserve at this stage. Ards tried to press through Salley, and he was denied a hattrick by a brilliantly timed challenge by Point centre half Dylan Hand. Great move by Ards and the front man but Hand kept him in check.
That signalled the last of Ards’ resistance as Adam Carroll went right up the other end and completed his hattrick on 78’ to take it away from Ards with just 10 mins left to play. Ards had done well to clear a dangerous Steven Ball freekick, Scannell with the block in the wall. The ball fell to Reynolds near the half way line but he laid it off inexplicably to a black shirt, Point sub Jake O’Connor the beneficiary. O’Connor was able to stab the ball through to Carroll, Carroll controlled well, cut inside Mullen, sending him to the floor, before firing once again past a helpless Alex Moore. The Ards number 1 once again letting in 5 at home despite doing very little wrong. Some terrible mistakes in front of him and further up the pitch leaving the keeper very exposed on numerous occasions.
After 3 mins time added on the game was over, 5-3 the final score leaving Ards to reflect on twice throwing away a lead with some poor decisions. Ards were decent in an attacking threat, Salley grabbing 2 and on another day Eamon Scannell could easily have had a couple himself. The same mistakes, the same poor decisions and the same frailties at the back keep costing us time and time again. Adam Salley was named the Ards MOTM by the sponsors following his brace on the day.
MOTM Adam Salley celebrating his two goals on the day
We move on to the next one, long trip to the Northwest to face Institute at the Brandywell. We suffered defeat last time out, but with other teams above us making strides we need to start picking up points.
Moore, Hall, Mullen, Taylor, Young, Cafolla, Murray (C), Taggart, Salley, Hunter, Scannell
Shields, Arthurs, Steele, Hamill, McDonald, Reynolds, Jallow