Our Under 18s travelled to face Cliftonville Strollers on Thursday in the NIFL Academy League. Our U18s yet to pick up a point having lost to Newry and Coleraine still missed Aaron MaCrory and John Joe MacDonald through injury. Cliftonville on the other hand came into the game unbeaten having won against Linfield and drew against Warrenpoint.
Ards got off to a much better start than last weeks game with Coleraine, not conceding early was definitely spoken about before hand. Karl Holywood had half a chance for the red and blue but his strike never troubled the Cliftonville keeper. The North Belfast side had a number of their own chances but also failing to hit the target. On the half hour mark Cliftonville nearly opened the scoring but for a save from keeper Harry Kinnear. Up at the other end Holywood ran at the Reds defence causing all sorts of problems, he won his side a penalty after being fouled by the keeper, he stepped up and made no mistake from the spot putting Ards 1-0 in front. However it didn’t take long for Cliftonville to equalise, they took advantage of the space in behind and a cool finish made it level.
Cliftonville 1-1 Ards
In the second half Cliftonville came out of the blocks the quickest and scored inside 5 minutes of the re start. A miss placed pass in midfield put us under pressure as the Reds number 11 scored following a good delivery into the box. The reds were very much on top for the next 10 minutes and saves from Kinnear along with blocks from the Reds defence prevented them going further ahead. At the other end we reminded a constant threat on the counter attack, Holywood involved once more after linking up with Martin and Murray, the forward made his way goalwards before having a shot on goal that deflected in off a cliftonville defender making it 2-2.
An extremely open game for the remaining 20 minutes as neither side looked to retain possession, end to end stuff and the odd moment of madness as Harry Kinnear brought down a Cliftonville forward inside the box giving the referee no choice but to award a penalty, up stepped the number 11 but he had his effort saved by Kinnear. Minutes later an Ards corner caused problems in the Reds box, a super delivery by Nathan Johnston was finished off by Blake Bickerstaff who put Ards into a 3-2 lead. There was no doubt going to be more goals in the game, the lead lasted almost 3 minutes when a great pass from a Reds midfielder broke the back line their winger cut inside and passed across goal for a tap in making it 3-3.
The remaining 10 minutes had Cliftonville applying the pressure with a penalty appeal amongst it but the Ards defence remained strong as they threatened with Martin, Murray and Holywood at the other end. However neither side managed to find a winner as the referee blew for full time.
Full Time Score
Cliftonville 3-3 Ards
Karl Holywood 2
Man Of The Match
Starting XI - Kinnear (GK), Duckett (C), Keenan, Magee, Johnston, Martin, Bickerstaff, McCann, Young, Holywood, Murray
Substitutes - Moody (GK), McGirr, Armstrong
Managers Words “Another really tough and competitive game in this Academy League. In the long run it will prove very beneficial for every player competing. On the pitch tonight we had two sides who showed their ability on the ball, their defensive qualities off the ball, and at times their nativity also. That’s what youth football and development is about. We have had 2 defeats in this league and in both games probably deserved more. Cliftonville tonight will feel like they’ve lost the game but that’s football. Our boys showed great character in the end and their work rate and attitude cant be faulted. Providing we continue to learn from the mistakes we make collectively and individually we will improve and develop.”