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  • Writer's pictureStuart Dellow



There was little hint of the drama to come as this first game of the Lough 41 Championship kicked off at sunny Annagh. Ards were slow to settle and the home side had the better of the first half. Although for all their pressure the nearest they came to scoring was when the dangerous Murray hit a strong effort that cleared Neeson's bar. Ards had a chance of their own when a poor clearance from the home keeper led to an effort from Reynolds that was smothered at the post.

Annagh took the lead when a cross from their left wing found Peter Duffin and although he mishit his effort Neeson was wrong footed and could only help the ball into the net. Neeson was then forced into a good save from Murray who was proving hard to manage.Ards did put a good move together which led to a final effort from McAllister that was comfortably held. Just before the half time whistle Conal McGrandles, who was already on a yellow card was lucky to escape a second yellow or even a straight red for a challenge near the half way line. The concensus in the stands was that the referee had made allowances for the pitch which was holding a lot of surface water as a result of the torrential rain that had fallen for most of the first half. Ards did have one final chance in what was a disappointing first half performance, when Reynolds was thwarted at the near post after a good free kick move.

Ards brought on Cafolla for McGrandles at the start of the second half and immediately there was an improvement in their game. Having said that Annagh came close to extending their lead when Neeson had trouble gathering the ball in the surface water and was perhaps lucky to be awarded a free kick. As Ards increased their efforts Kym Nelson was the second player to be booked, shortly afterwards Scannell just failed to connect with a good cross from Young.

In the 68th minute manager John Bailie made a double substitution, with McMillen and O'Kane replacing McAllister and Scannell. Less than a minute later they were level as Cafolla connected with a good cross from Reynolds. The celebrations among travelling fans didn't last long however as Annagh again took the lead as slack marking allowed a cross to be headed home by Christian Stewart.

Ards continued to press and a goal line clearance prevented an equaliser. The visitors were not to be denied and Ross Arthurs chased a ball which put the keeper under pressure and the attempted clearance by the keeper cannoned off Arthurs and into the home net with about eight minutes to go. McMillen was next to get a yellow, just before Salou Jallow who had earlier replaced Daniel Reynolds almost clinched it for Ards but he let the ball run too far and could only hit the side netting. Ards were not to be denied however and a corner from McMillen found Cafolla on the edge of the box and his effort through a crowd of bodies found the net. Ards played out the remaining minutes of time added on and clinched the first three points of the season.

This was the first competitive game in the "new" black away kit and the first three points in that kit. It was also the first Ards game to be handled by an all female refereeing team who did a good job handling a physical game in difficult conditions.

Ards starting eleven :- Neeson, Young, McGovern, Ferrin, Crane, McAllister, Nelson, McGrandles, Scannell, Arthurs and Reynolds.

Subs used :- Cafolla, McMillen Salou and O'Kane.

Goals :- Cafolla [2], Arthurs.

Referee :- Louise Thompson

Assistant 1 :- Vikki Finlay.

Assistant 2 :- Rachel Greer

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