NIFL Championship – 19/03/22
By Phillip Bartlett
Ards Knock Breda for Five
It’s not the race we wanted nor the one we expected after our great start to the season, but it’s the one we’ve currently got. Heading into the penultimate game prior to the split Ards are still favourites to remain in the promotion group. Going in with a 2-point lead and a better goal difference, Ards only need to better Dergviews result over the Welders to secure that spot, so 3 points was a must. Knockbreda have been struggling for some time, last recording a win back in November beating Loughgall (2-1) and while Ards own form of late has been pretty inconsistent, we would definitely be considered favourites for this game too.
There was plenty of debate among the home fans on the possible makeup of todays starting 11 following last week’s poor performance with many expecting several changes from those that lined up against Newry and we weren’t disappointed. There were recalls to the starting line-up for McGovern, Scannell, Jallow and TJ Murray, getting his first start in several weeks following a serious injury. TJ was also handed the captains armband for this one and Scannell was starting at left back, rather than his usual midfield wide-left position as new boss Tipton works on identifying his best 11. James Ferrin and Benji Magee were brought back onto the bench with McGrandles and Calderwood missing out.
This was another really one-sided game for Ards today with any and all efforts that Knockbreda enjoyed arising from mistakes and lapses in concentration made by the home team. While the final score was 5-2 it could very well have been 15-5 based on chances created and defensive errors. It was a crazy game, in what has been a season of them, with a mix of great attacking play, top finishing and some schoolboy defending. A tough watch for the fans at times, but a result in which we ultimately came out on the right side of and deserved despite it all.
The first half, Ards dominated from the off and while the first goal came early enough, we very well could have been 2-0 to the good before that. With two out and out wingers working down the left-hand side in DeeDee McAllister and Scannell, it was no surprise that most of the early activity was from the Ards left. In as early as the 2nd minute the two boys combined well, quick movement getting DeeDee to the by-line, his cross into the box was dangerous but no Ards players had made up the ground to get on the end of it and the Breda keeper did just enough to get it away. Early warning signs from Ards; DeeDee was at it again just a couple of mins later as he collected the ball just inside the Knockbreda half. He skipped past two players, found himself a bit of room about 20 yards out, and hit a great shot that went just wide. Ards pressing early on but yet to find the net.
We didn’t have to wait much longer for Reynolds to open the scoring as on 9’ the forward reacted first reaching the second ball after an unconvincing save by Oates in the Breda goal. It was an untidy finish and took some time to get over the line, but neither Reynolds nor the RABA were overly concerned with that. Ards 1-0, a very well-deserved lead on the balance of play. Ards kept on pressing and created several chances to extend their lead, Cafolla going close from distance, an effort coming back off the crossbar and Oates making a couple of decent saves, although not overly convincing but it remained 1-0.
It was a moment to forget for the stand in keeper soon after as he came rushing out from his goal line to try and deny Jallow a certain goal. He ended up flattening the wide man and the referee had no choice but to point to the spot. He also produced a yellow card for the Breda keeper, deeming it sufficient as the keeper had made a genuine attempt to win the ball. Reynolds stepped up and took the penalty on 29', slotting it into the right-hand corner of the goal. The keeper had guessed right and got something on it but couldn’t keep it out as it was a powerfully hit strike. Reynolds and Ards both with 2 goals, a well-deserved lead.
Of course, we need to remember this is Ards and as such it would be naïve of us to think that the game was done and on 40’ Knockbreda were right back in it thanks to a gift from the Ards keeper. Bam came rushing out to try and intercept a long ball but halted his run just inside the box allowing Knockbreda’s Burns to lift it over him and into an empty net. Ards shooting themselves in the foot and giving Breda a lifeline in a half where they had been completely outplayed. Disappointment for Bam who had earlier came to Ards' rescue, saving well in a one-on-one with Gilmour having been unexpectedly played in by Ards midfield man Donnelly. Another lapse of concentration, but one we got away with as Gilmour really should have scored.
In an already action-packed half there was time still for Ards to restore their 2-goal advantage and for a Knockbreda player to be taken off on a stretcher before the break. Our 3rd was an untidy goal, scored by Jallow on 43’, poor defending from Knockbreda who had several chances to clear, allowed the wingers persistence to win out and he managed to get the ball over the line. Just before the half time whistle ex Ards man Nathan O’Neill went down and had to be taken off on the stretcher following a bad groin injury. After a lengthy delay the referee called time after 6 mins injury time. Ards will be happy with the score line at the break but concerned at the number of chances that were gifted to Knockbreda, and happy to just have conceded 1.
There was an enforced change for Ards at the break as Young had to be withdrawn through injury. He was replaced by Tully with captain for the day TJ Murray dropping into right back as cover.
Knockbreda started the second half well putting the Ards goal under early pressure. They created several decent chances without really testing Bam. Having weathered the opening few mins Ards were the beneficiary of a gift this time courtesy of poor Knockbreda defending. A really simple long ball was not dealt with by any of the Breda back line, I’m sure Reynolds couldn’t believe his luck as he was able to just stroll through, pick the ball up and slot it past a helpless Oates in the goal. A well-deserved hat trick for him and well deserved 3 goal lead for Ards. Shocking to see that level of defending but graciously accepted by the Ards forward.
Ards now with a healthy lead but the subs we made suggested they wanted more. Dinu, Igiehon and Magee were brought on to replace the departing McAllister, Jallow and hat trick hero Reynolds. The changes initially seemed to backfire on Ards as within 5 minutes Knockbreda got a second goal, this time through Gardiner. It had to be one of the most confusing goals I’ve seen in a while. Breda played the ball in from the left and Bam came off his line to claim, having missed the ball after colliding with an opponent, it reached Donnelly whose defensive header actually came off his own crossbar before dropping in the box to Gardiner who managed to scramble the ball into the corner of the goal. During that goal Bam got a knock and after lengthy treatment on the pitch had to take his leave and was replaced by Lemoignan with nearly 30 mins to go.
The scoring was not done and finally the Ards fans were able to celebrate a goal from our new January signing as Benny Igiehon got in on the act, finishing at the back post. Oates had no chance as Ards moved the ball quickly ending with a clinical finish from Benny. The big striker was clearly happy with getting off the mark celebrating round the pitch with the RABA that were positioned behind that goal. Ards now leading 5-2, the scoring was done, but still we created a couple more chances and, on another day, could have extended our lead further. An already busy game for both team physios, there was another lengthy stoppage towards the end of the second half with another Knockbreda player having to leave the field with an injury.
With 6 mins additional time played, the referee finally brought the game to an end having played over 102 minutes. The Ards fans and team clearly happy with the result, somewhat tarnished by the Dergview result as they beat the H&W Welders 2-1 at Blanchflower Park to ensure the race for the top six will go down to the last game.
We’re off to the Welders next week, last go before the additional 'split 5' games. The importance of that game can’t be underestimated in terms of final league position and financial ramifications. If we remain in the top 6, we’ll have 4 home games but if we fall into the relegation group, we’ll have 4 away fixtures. With Dergview involved in a local Derby against Ballinamallard next week it all points to Ards coming out on top, but it’s been such an unusual season throughout, who really knows what will happen?
Our thought’s go out to those players that were injured and taken off today, especially O’Neill who seemed to have picked up a pretty bad injury. Fingers crossed they are on the mend and will be back on the pitch very soon.
Neeson (64), Scannell, Crane, McGovern, Young (45), Murray, Cafolla, Donnelly, McAllister (58), Jallow (58), Reynolds (58)
Lemoignan (64), Dinu (58), Ferrin, Magee (58), Tully (45), Igiehon (58), Arthurs