NIFL Championship – 18/03/23
By Phillip Bartlett
Ards show great ‘Fourtitude’ to take the win
Ards hit four goals in a fantastic second half performance to earn all 3 points.
Ards stumbled again last time out in their bid to avoid finishing in the bottom half of the Championship for consecutive seasons, held to a 2-2 draw away to second bottom side Newington in a hastily re-arranged mid-week fixture. Returning home this week Ards take on the bottom side of the table who are looking to grab a vital 3 points to keep their chances of survival alive. A season that promised so much early on and again we’re trying to scrape into the top half of the league. Knockbreda will be very much aware that time is running out for them as well as they bid to avoid the automatic drop, with their two closest rivals some 7 points ahead, it looks very bleak indeed. Both teams go into the game needing the points for different reasons, but Ards can take nothing for granted as we’ve said so often this season, a 3-2 boxing day defeat in the reverse fixture testament to that.
One change to the starting eleven that featured against Newington on Tuesday, Cricky Crane replacing Chris McDonald in the left back spot. McDonald drops to the bench while Conor Scannell misses out. A familiar paring in the heart of defence as TJ Murray and Karl Hamill once again play together, the former midfield man seemingly getting used to playing a more defensive role. Top scorer Adam Salley leads the line with plenty of pace outside him on both flanks with Eamon Scannell on one side and Salou Jallow on the other so he can expect plenty of chances coming his way. Ethan Taggart carries on in the centre of the park, having picked up his 3rd PASC POTM award in a row prior to kick off, excelling in February once again.
Ards' Cricky Crane restore to left back for this one
A goalless first half, a five goal thriller in the second says it all about this game of two ‘halfs’. Ards didn’t offer much in the first half seemingly waiting for something to happen rather than going out and making it happen. It was slow and pretty dull half with limited goal mouth action at either end, there were half chances, but I don’t remember either keeper being overly tested or too concerned in the opening 45. 0-0 at the break, the crowd praying for a better second period. Almost immediately things got better from a footballing perspective, we had a goal within 2 mins of the restart, bad news for the home supporters as it was a Knockbreda opener. What looked like a bad start on the surface was ultimately the kick up the backside we needed as going behind seemed to wake us up and get us playing a bit. 4 unanswered goals from the RABA saw us wrap up the game and grab the three points with a bit of style in the end. Salley walked away having added 2 more goals to his tally, Salou Jallow was back on the scoresheet and the ‘everywhere man’ Ethan Taggart popped up towards the end to cap it off with a fine headed finish. A good result in the end and a very welcome three points.
Ards nearly had a dream start to this one, Aidan Steele out through on goal in the opening seconds but couldn’t find a finish as he smashed his shot straight at Nicholl in the Knockbreda goal. Ards carried on with the early press, looking to get balls into the box at each opportunity, or carry the ball and take on their opponents but outside of the chance in the opening seconds their efforts amounted to nothing. As time moved on Knockbreda started to find their feet claiming some decent possession and starting to put the Ards goal under a bit of pressure, but Moore wasn’t troubled in the opening stages, his defensive line coping well with their advances.
Jallow had the best chance of the game on the half hour mark to open the scoring, Salley doing really well wide right to outmuscle his opponent and hitting a fierce low cross into the box trying to find the run of Jallow. The ball was just that bit too far in front of the winger and he couldn’t make up the ground to turn it towards goal and it ran away to safety for Knockbreda. The game carried on in much the same fashion for the remainder of the half, neither team really grabbing it by the horns.
Top scorer Adam Salley celebrates finding the back of the net in the Bangor sunshine
Knockbreda definitely improved as the game went on, Ewan McCoubrey their stand-out man causing Ards problems with his delivery from set pieces. On 38’ there was a scare for TJ Murray and the home fans as he went into a wild challenge on Rutkowski. It was late and high, and it was a tense few moments as loads of black and yellow shirts surrounded the referee demanding action. A yellow was produced in the end, but another ref, on another day may have thought differently. The resulting freekick was the closest Knockbreda had come to scoring and giving Moore his first real test of the game. McCoubrey floated the ball in towards the back post, looking for the run of Burns, the wide man missed the ball, but the accuracy of the delivery was taking it right inside the bottom corner at the far post. Alex Moore, who was stuck between waiting on the delivery and keeping an eye on any movement in the box had to fling himself to his left and parry it away to safety. A nightmare ball for the keeper to deal with, if you leave it it might go in, if you try to deal with the ball an opponent might nip in and steal it. Dealt with it really well in the end and kept it 0-0 as the half was coming to an end.
There was time for one more moment of magic right at the end of the half, Ethan Taggart going within a lick of paint of giving Ards the lead just before the interval. Conal Young cleared the ball high up the right wing, Taggart collected it and used his strength to get past Barry Moore in the Breda left back position. He took the ball on himself and sent his shot across goal narrowly missing the far corner with Nicholl beat. Shortly thereafter the referee blew up for the half time internal to scores 0-0 at the break.
No changes for Ards during the break, the same 11 return to the field as Knockbreda get the game going again.
Fast start for Knockbreda and Ards are caught out after just 3 mins of the restart, Lee McGreevy taking advantage of some slack marking to give Knockbreda the lead. Barry Moore played the long ball up, TJ headed it clear but only as far as McDermott. His return ball is picked up by McCoubrey who plays a subtle little back heel through the Ards defensive line for McGreevy to run on to. He takes one touch to get it out of his feet and side foots into the far corner before Crane could get back and make the challenge. 1-0 Breda after 48’.
Ards on the back foot now needing a response and they nearly had one just 2 minutes later, Ethan Taggart unsure how his pinpoint header was kept out. Scannell with the short corner laying it off to Crane, his cross into the box was perfect for Taggart who helps it on towards the far post. It looked to all the world and their dog that Ards had equalised but somehow Nicholl managed to reach it with a strong hand and palm it away. Excellent play all round, Taggart unsure how that one stayed out. The follow up corner was sent in by Steele causing Nicholl more problems, the Breda #1 managing to punch it clear only as far as Salley. His initial shot is blocked by a black and yellow body thrown in front of it, Jallow collects the ball on the edge of the box, does well to turn back inside but curls effort his effort wide of the far post. Good response from Ards after going behind.
Salou Jallow fires in to give Ards the lead
Ards kept pressing, living dangerously at the back at times with Hamill making two last ditch challenges to ensure Knockbreda didn’t increase their advantage, and it quickly paid off, Adam Salley on the spot to knock in the equaliser, Ards behind for less than 10 minutes. Scannell with the delivery from wide right, Salley’s movement not picked up as he cut behind the defensive line finishing first time in the bottom corner. Nicholl no chance for that one, excellent work by Salley, great finish. Just 2 mins later Salley had the ball in the net for a second time, but the home celebrations were cut short by a linesmans flag indicating offside. Scannell had worked really well, tussling with Max Greer down the Ards left, he made it past his man and stood a ball up in the box. Knockbreda cleared the first ball to Taggart who sent it wide finding an unmarked Cafolla. Cafolla lifted the ball into the box and Salley finished cooly with a header into the far corner, but the flag was straight up and Ards were still level.
Still 1-1 going into the last 20 mins and Ards struck to take the lead for the first time, Salou Jallow popping up at the far post to finish high into the Breda net. Crane played the ball down the line for Steele to run on to, his cross was low and bobbling in front of goal seemingly crying out for a Knockbreda clearance, but it made its way past everyone until the onrushing Jallow met it, finishing well with the right foot shot. Ards 2-1 and the turn around was complete. On 81’ minutes Ards put the game to bed, Adam Salley grabbing his second, and Ards third of the game with a well worked move. Conal Young took the square field pass off Crane in the middle of the park, had plenty of time to look up and see what was going on before lifting the ball into the box perfectly for Salley to flick on into the back of the net. 3-1, a little under 10 mins to go. Great turn around thus far by the RABA.
Not sure what's going here, unique celebrations by Ards' Ethan Taggart as he completes the scoring
Ards had the game pretty much wrapped up but the scoring wasn’t quite done, Taggart had one more moment left, converting his header from an Eamon Scannell Corner. It was a well whipped in cross, Taggart saw it all the way and almost knelt down to nurse it back across goal finding the far corner. A well taken goal and thoroughly deserved for the second half performance. I’ll not say too much about the celebration, perhaps it needs a bit more work.
Two minutes of time added on to be played, time enough for two goal hero Adam Salley to be named the sponsors MOTM, there would have been couple others in the running as well but a well-deserved winner. Some good displays out there in the second half, the less said about the first half the better.
Happy with the 3 points, but still work to be done for boss Tipton and his team
That’s us down to the last game pre-split and our destiny is no longer in our own hands. We need to go to Dundela and get all 3 points to give us a chance of reaching the top half and hope that other results go our way. Still very much a Jekyll and Hyde team at present, you’re never quite sure what team is going to turn up on the day. Once we find that level of consistency things should turn in our favour.
Moore, Crane, TJ Murray, Hamill, Young, Taggart, Cafolla, Steele, E Scannell, Salley, Jallow
Shields, Mullen, Taylor, McDonald, Reynolds, Arthurs, Hunter