NIFL Playr-Fit Championship – 04/11/23
By Phillip Bartlett
Ards Show Their Steele
Battling spirit on display during determined victory ‘up west’.
Ards face the long trek along the M1 and A5 for, what many have called a must win fixture for the team and manager. With 4 defeats and a draw in the last 5 league games, Ards have been on a run that has saw them sink to 11th in the table only sitting above basement club Knockbreda who have yet to register a single point this season. This weekend’s opponents have had a similar start to the season and sit level on points with Ards but 1 position higher in the table courtesy of a slightly better goal difference. Having already faced Dergview at home earlier in the season, one of only 3 Ards victories, there will be reasons to be confident of victory, but Dergview is a tough place to go and get a result, couple that with the recent form and even the most ardent Ards supporter will find cause for concern. Dergview have had some notable wins this season themselves, taking all 3 points from high flying Newington and H&W Welders so there will be nothing taken for granted as Ards look to steady the ship.
5 changes to the starting 11 from the last league outing at Ballyclare
5 changes to the starting 11 that capitulated so badly away to Ballyclare last time out, which was arguably Ards worst performance of the season so far. Those who retained their spots in the side need be determined to right a few wrongs and put in a performance for those supporters that made the long trek over. Starting at the back, Alex Moore is back in goal, replacing Neil Shields between the sticks. Max Greer drops out to the bench, being replaced at right back by Gorman with Michael Ruddy returning to centre half after missing out through injury following that nasty clash of heads against Institute. DeeDee McAllister comes into the starting line-up after impressing last week when introduced late on and the two Scannell brothers both start this one completing the changes. Miller and Greer are joined on the bench by Paddy Cafolla who is nearing a return to the side following injury while we say goodbye to Salou Jallow who has recently relocated ‘Down Under’, for which we wish him well. Taggart and Shields are both absent through injury and will hopefully return soon.
A much-improved performance from numbers 1 through 30 saw Ards run out worthy 3-0 winners to ease the pressure on Manager Tipton and give the supporters some measure of positivity. Ards didn’t have it all their own way but while Dergview had periods of possession, we remained relatively untroubled at the back. Add to that 3 pretty special goals from 3 different outfield players it was a much needed fillip for everyone associated with Ards and something we can use to build on moving forward. Aidan Steele carried on his recent goal scoring form grabbing his 4th league goal of the season to give Ards the lead on the half hour mark, an excellent finish from outside the area. A deserved 1-0 lead at the break Ards came out in the second half and kicked on further a brilliant solo goal from Eamon Scannell on 55’ doubling the lead and a fantastic acrobatic effort from Callum Dougan finishing things off on 84’. 3-0 the final result, nothing short of what Ards deserved alongside a welcome clean sheet, our first since Dundela away back in September.
Ards side taking to the field before kick off
I believe everyone involved with Ards understood the importance of todays fixture, from the players, management, board and fans, everyone expecting and demanding a performance. High pressure on the pitch and a tough venue to travel to go get any sort of result. Ards started the better of the two sides, getting on the front foot and earning themselves several corners in the opening 10 minutes. The delivery early on left a lot to be desired, Ards wasting several good opportunities to put the home side under pressure. Steele showed his intent early on testing O’Gara in the Dergview goal on 9’, the first effort on target from either side. It was a well hit, dipping shot that had O’Gara scrambling across goal to make the save. Dergview finally started to insert themselves in the game after ceding possession for the early stages, a couple of set pieces of their own pressing Ards back towards their own goal.
Most of the early Ards pressure was focused down their right flank, Conor Scannell very busy and getting at the left side full back for Dergview. A slice of luck on 15’ saw C Scannell get beyond the back line as McMonagle missed his header. The wide man picked the ball up for Ards and drove to the box, looked for the cut back to McLaughlin but the ball in was intercepted and Dergview could clear the danger. With Scannell seemingly having the beating of McMonagle Ards tried to take advantage, Ruddy and Tipton combining well in the middle before the Ards captain played a perfectly timed and weighted ball through the middle for C Scannell. Acres of space on the ball but Scannell’s run was a fraction early and rightly called back for offside. Very positive for Ards.
Aidan Steele grabbed his 4th goal of the season, opening the scoring on the half hour mark
The Ards pressure built and built until finally we got the rewards, Aidan Steele breaking the deadlock on 30’ mins. Quick thinking from an Ards corner wide right, Conor Scannell played a short ball to Steele, the midfield man had time and space outside the area to assess the situation and pull off an audacious chip to the back post. O’Gara was caught out and couldn’t make up the ground across goal before the ball fell over his head and into the back of the net. Excellent goal for Ards and just what they deserved after a professional opening half hour. 1-0 the score, Steele the man to get it. Ards were still getting joy down the right, Conor Scannell really enjoying himself out there but all too often the quality balls played into the box are wasted as no-one from red and blue and gambled and made the right runs.
As half time was approaching Ards went close to doubling their lead as McLaughlin challenged for a Tipton free kick played into the area but an offside flag brought that attack to a premature end. Having grabbed 3 last week McLaughlin will be keen to keep that run going and was doing the hard work battling well with the Dergview centres halfs, more often than not getting the better in those duels. After 1 additional minute the first have was brought to a close, Ards winning 1-0 and a much better showing in those opening 45 minutes than what we have seen of late.
No changes for Ards at the break, the same 11 take to the field after the interval. The home side get the game going again.
Behind at the break Dergview looked to start fast and catch Ards napping from a free kick on the Ards right. It was a dangerous delivery, but Gorman was equal to it, meeting it first and getting it clear. It didn’t get that far up field but the ever-busy E Scannell was there to complete the clearance and get Ards going again. Having been very industrious in the first half Eamon Scannell grabbed his rewards early in the second half as he doubled Ards lead with a brilliant solo goal. Picking the ball up from Steele in the middle of the park Scannell ran at the Dergview back line. As big and as strong as the two Derg’ centre halfs were neither could cope with Scannell’s agility as he weaved his way through challenges before firing a well-placed shot across goal and into the far corner of the net, the placement giving O’Gara no chance even at full stretch.
Ards continued to press their advantage looking to put the game beyond the hosts, DeeDee McAllister going close on 63’ firing a fierce shot to the near post while under pressure from Cowan. That one stung the palms of O’Gara but the Dergview keeper held on well. Eamon Scannell looked to double his tally a few minutes later receiving the ball from the other Scannell before firing at goal from distance. It was well struck, the ball moving all over the place in the air, and all O’Gara could do was parry it away to safety. Ards on the up and pressing for more.
Ards' Eamon Scannell returned after suspension to grab a goal and propel the RABA to victory
For the most part Ards found themselves relatively untroubled at the back, very resolute and hard work ensuring no way through to the Ards keeper, but they did have their moments. Dergview had the ball in the back of the Ards net on 67’, Lynch with a good finish across the keeper but the Dergview man had gone early and found himself flagged offside, goal disallowed. Into the last 10 minutes and that man Lynch again went close, managing to get across then goalkeeper and get his head to a Jack Parke cross before Moore could claim. With the whole goal at his mercy his header was directly ever so narrowly around the wrong side of the post. Relief for Ards as that would have made for a nervy last 10 minutes.
Callum Dougan was introduced on 80’, replacing the battling James McLaughlin, and within 4 minutes grabbed himself a goal and a 3rd for Ards finally putting the game beyond Dergview. Eamon Scannell the provider on the right, a lofted cross into a really dangerous area, it sat up perfectly for Dougan who launched himself in the air for an acrobatic overhead kick some 5 yards from goal. A perfect connection and the ball flew past a helpless O’Gara, nothing the keeper could do to keep that one out. 3-0 to Ards with just over 5 mins remaining the relief around the ground for those in red and blue was palpable. A tough month or so, finally a shard of light and something to be positive about. That was the 90’ done and after 3 mins time added on the ref brought the game to an end.
3-0 the final score and no more than Ards deserved. A proper all-round performance with great displays from everyone on the park. Resolute at the back, solid in the middle with the required level of creativity, mixed with a proper attacking threat at the top end of the pitch. All involved knows this squad of players are better than what we have seen recently which makes recent results all the more frustrating. Great to see DeeDee McAllister on from the start, offers us so much when in full flow. Another non-stop performance from both Scannell boys and of course 3 great goals shared around. Hat tip to captain Michael Ruddy as well, returning to action following that nasty head injury, great to see him back playing at his best again.
Final score, a resounding 3-0 victory for the visitors
While that was a good result, and a much needed 3 points, some will be left unconvinced and will be demanding more. This is a great platform to kick on from and with bottom of the table Knockbreda up next another win would surely be possible if we play like we did in this one. Breda yet to get a point on the board we don’t want that to change next week, they will be desperate to get any kind of result but having beaten them 3-2 last time out we can go into it with renewed confidence.
Moore, Gorman, McCallum, Ruddy, Maxwell, E Scannell, C Scannell, Tipton, Steele, McAllister, McLaughlin
Greer, Miller, Hunter, Cafolla, Dougan, Ritchie