Ards faced Ballyclare Comrades in this Friday night clash at Clandeboye Park, with the winner of the game destined for the top of the table, for at least one night.
In the opening five minutes Ciaran Dobbin’s strike from distance was looping below the crossbar but Neeson palmed the danger out for a corner, which was to no avail for the away side. Ards had their first chance of the game eight minutes in when TJ Murray’s free header from the far post was just wide.
Shortly after, Ards were awarded a freekick about 20 yards out. Conall Young’s delivery found Calvin McCurry but, as he was under pressure by the Comrades defence, he passed to Eamon Scannell with his strike from the edge of the box being just off target.
29 minutes in and the home side took the lead and in some style too! Young’s pass was edged on by a Scannell header which was off target. However, the danger was still alive with the rebound falling to Cafolla, who let the ball bounce round the defender and then struck it first time with the powerful shot finding the top left hand corner, 1-0!
3 minutes later TJ Murray’s volley was wide of the left hand post as the home side looked to get a quick second.
5 minutes before half time the travelling Ballyclare fans were appealing for a penalty, arguing that the ball hit off the hand of an Ards defender but the referee waved the appeals away.
And barely a minute later and it was 2-0 with Ross Arthurs’ beautiful volley finding the top corner after a clever McCurry set up. Definitely a goal worth watching back on the highlights!
The half ended with Ards dominating and deserving of a 2-0 lead.
Early in the second half Liam McKenna’s freekick was an easy save for Neeson. Fifty two minutes in a long ball from Young, who provided the majority of promising passes, fell to Arthurs but his header looped over the bar when it seemed easier to score.
Approaching the hour mark Ards were lucky to keep hold of their two goal lead when Neeson judged the flight of the ball incorrectly leaving substitute Andrew Mooney with an unattended net but his header was over the bar.
66 minutes in and Scannell did well to win back possession in a dangerous position. A well timed McGrandles pass then gave Salou Jallow a good opportunity but his header was too high to threaten away keeper Ferguson.
Ards were unlucky not to make it three when Scannell’s strike from the far left hand side of the corner box hit off the inside of the crossbar and out, to the relief of the away side and fans.
Seconds later Ballyclare then hit the woodwork themselves with Jason Mooney’s strike also hitting the inside of the crossbar with McGrandles heading the danger away before the striker could connect with the rebound.
Ballyclare continued to press, this time it was Ashton McDermott who had the chance, but his strike from distance was too high.
With 2 minutes of normal time remaining Jallow had a one on one with the keeper after running down the right wing, before unselfishly passing to McCurry who scored his first goal for Ards when his close range strike made it 3-0. Another first came when young Jacob Duckett came on to as sub, making his competitive debut for Ards.
The game finished 3-0. A great result and, in my opinion, Ards’s best performance of the season. They weren’t afraid to get involved, fight for second balls and kept pushing until the end. I also think there’s definitely a strong team bond this year which gets more evident as the games go on and, with Ards being top of the league after this victory, it’s definitely not been a bad start to all our weekends!
The only negative of the evening saw yellow cards for Young, Murray and McGovern, which for Young and Murray means they will be suspended for next Saturday night's clash with Ballinamallard.