A much changed starting eleven took to Dixon Park looking to get a morale boosting win, albeit against another side going through a bad patch in the shape of Ballyclare Comrades. Missing from last week's team were Young who was unwell, and Dee Dee McAllister and Reynolds through injury, while team captain McGovern was suspended, Kym Nelson wasn't in the squad. There were recalls for Calderwood, O'Hare, Scannell, Arthurs, McCurry and Dinu.
Ards got off to a flyer when in their first attack a penalty was awarded to the Red and Blues after a foul by a defender. After some delaying tactics by the home side Kyle Calderwood stepped up but his weak kick was easily smothered by Ferguson.
To add salt to the wound Ballyclare took the lead a few minutes later when a free kick out on the Ards left was headed home by Heggarty to give the Comrades the lead. Calderwood then found himself in the book after a lunge at an opponent on the half way line. Ballyclare had their tails up for a while but to their credit Ards kept plugging away on a heavy pitch which made good football difficult and earned their equaliser on the 20th minute when a good corner from Cafolla caused panic in the area, the keeper's initial punch went high in the air and a follow up header hit the bar from close range, fortunately McGrandles was on hand to nod in the rebound and level the scores. Better was to come for the travelling fans when Sam Dinu floated in a free kick which captain for the day TJ Murray headed goalwards only to see the keeper make a decent save which he couldn't hold, fortunately Ross Arthurs was on hand to tap the ball home off the far post and give Ards the lead. Neeson did have to make a timely intervention to prevent a home goal but apart from that there were no clear cut chances for either side for the rest of the first half which ended 2-1 for the visitors.
In the second half Ballyclare started brightly and put Ards under some pressure without really threatening Neeson's goal, having said that Neeson had impressed with his handling which was needed as the defence at times seemed to panic a little. The nerves were settled a little when the third headed goal of the day, this time from Cafolla who was having a good game, put Ards in an apparently commanding 3-1 lead with just over half an hour to go. The ball seemed to take an age to cross the line but the fans behind the goal didn't mind as they felt that had ensured a win. However Ballyclare hadn't read the script and with twenty minutes left Ramsey scored a header from a corner to make it 3-2. Worryingly for Ards both goals had been conceded from set pieces. McCurry did have a chance to restore the two goal lead but was forced wide by the keeper and his shot was off target.
In an effort to reassert some authority on the game John Bailie brought on Salou Jallow for McCurry and his pace did pose problems for the home side. However Ballyclare weren't out of it and with five minutes to go the hard working Scannell was replaced by defender Cricky Crane. Ards had another chance when a hard and low free from wide on the left by TJ Murray appeared to hit the post before being cleared. No doubt in an attempt to run down the clock John Bailie brought on Dylan O'Kane and Aaron Brown for Ross Arthurs and TJ Murray as the 90 minutes approached. The icing was put on the cake in injury time as Jallow broke down the left, outpaced the defender, then was forced away from goal as he rounded the keeper but he had the composure to settle himself before slotting the ball past the keeper and a defender who had got back in an attempt to cover the goal. It was an excellent goal to clinch the three points. The importance of the win was confirmed by the sight of Neeson running the length of the pitch to join in the celebrations!
The win and other results today move Ards up to fifth, still two points behind the team in second place, looking forward to hosting Knockbreda at Clandeboye Park on December 27th.
Starting eleven :- Neeson, Calderwood, Ferrin, O'Hare, Dinu, Murray, McGrandles, Cafolla, McCurry, Arthurs, Scannell.
Subs used - Jallow, Crane, O'Kane, Brown.
Subs not used - Carry, Eamon McAllister and Glover.