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  • Writer's pictureMichael Barritt

Dundela 0 Ards 1 – Match Report

NIFL Playr-Fit Championship – 09/09/23

By Phillip Bartlett

Ards ‘Dun’ Good

Ards on the climb after back-to-back wins for the first time this season

Ards are back on the winning trail and are getting goals, having defeated Dergview 4-2 last time out. Consistency is the key and while Ards have now gone 6 games unbeaten in all competitions, league wins are still hard to come by on a consistently. Ards will be looking to carry on their recent good record but with Dundela currently sitting second, having won 5 of their opening 7 games, it will be no easy feat. Ards had Dundela’s number last season winning 3 of the 4 games against their East Belfast opponents, while drawing the other fixture 1-1. The Duns went on a 5 game winning run before Newington brought it to an end with a 3-1 win, so the home side will be looking to get their season back on track in this one. Always a decent game at the Hen Run, both sets of fans will hoping for more of the same today.

1 change for Ards today in the starting line up as Paddy Cafolla returns to action having missed out the last few games through injury. He replaces Eamon Scannell who misses out today with a calf injury, hopefully short term and we’ll be back to full strength shortly. The only other change to todays match day squad see Karl Hamill come onto the bench as Matt Gorman drops out. Ards have now started the same back 4 and goalkeeper for the last 7 league fixtures, that consistency ensuring huge improvements of the performance of the defensive line, Ards now unbeaten in the last 6 in all competitions going into this game. Plenty of familiar faces in green today as Ards’ former captain Jamie McGovern and defender Sam Dinu partner together at the back for the Duns. Jake Corbett starts in the middle of the park having completed an injury disrupted loan spell at Ards a couple of seasons back. Should be a competitive, close game. Looking forward to this one.

Paddy Cafolla returns to the starting line up having recovered from injury sustained earlier in the season

A single goal was enough to separate the teams, Ards defender Adam McCallum grabbing the all-important goal towards the end of the first half. It came at a time when Ards were piling on the pressure and was thoroughly deserved. Both teams had periods of dominance throughout both ‘halfs’, the Duns starting out well and threatening early on. Ards rallied and edged their way back into the game, lifting the tempo and pressing the Duns back and arguably should have opened the scoring well before the deadlock was eventually broken. The second half was more of the same but with Ards holding the lead they were able to control the game a bit better as the Duns had to press. Ards didn’t by any means sit back and invite them on but looked to control possession while picking their moments to attack. Plenty of chances for both sides, clearances off the line for each, but neither goalkeeper was overly troubled is the story of the second 45. 1-0 remained the score at the final whistle and Ards will feel it was a result they really deserved after a great team performance.

Top conditions for this one as the Duns got the game going, the sun was shining and the pitch at Wilgar Park was looking in great condition, the ambition of the home side there for all to see with construction ongoing around the stadium. Alex Moore was the busier of the keepers early on as the Duns started the better, making all the play and getting a lot of joy early on down their right. Anto Burns, a summer acquisition from Knockbreda, was first to hit the target with a low shot at the near post but it was a regulation save for Moore. Ards clearly hadn’t settled in the opening stages and on 9’ mins there was a bit of confusion between Moore and McCallum that could have cost us. A simple ball lifted in by McMaster, Moore called to claim but clashed with McCallum as the centre half attempted to clear as well. The ball broke loose but Ards were able to recover it and clear the danger before Dundela could capitalise, bit more composure needed in these opening minutes.

It took until the 16th minute for Ards to create their first meaningful attack, having been under the cosh for the opening 15. Ross Hunter tried his luck from just inside the box, straight forward save for Henderson down to his left. It resulted in a corner from which Ards threatened again. Steele laid the set-piece off to Maxwell who lifted it into the box, it deflected off a Dundela body and spun high in the air where Michael Ruddy had a free header at goal. There was a lack of power on the effort and an easy one for Henderson to take in the air. Better from Ards as an attacking threat. A few minutes later Ards should have taken the lead following a corner from the right that resulted in chaos in the Duns penalty area. The corner came from a well taken Callum Dougan effort that was narrowly deflected round the post by Jake White. The corner was swung in from the right by Maxwell, Ards with no less than 4 great chances to convert but the Duns were throwing themselves in front of everything and there was at least two saved off the line. 20 manic seconds where Ards just couldn’t find the finish, the Duns able to breathe a sigh of relief once they eventually got it up the pitch.

Adam McCallum grabbed the only goal of the game, celebrating with Ards striker Callum Dougan

Dundela went within inches of equalising, McCallum close to opening the scoring but in the wrong end. Jordan Jenkins did well down the right to get himself into a crossing position, swung the ball in trying to pick out Burns in the box. McCallum tracked the flight of the ball and got something on it to divert it out for a corner. It was an important interception but went really close to finding the back of his own net from my vantage point, a collective holding of breath from the travelling RABA. After that chance Ards look hold of the game again keeping Dundela trapped in their own half creating chance after chance, Dougan looking dangerous and trying to make something happen up top. It was Dougan who ultimately led to the goal, great work from the Ards #9 on the edge of the box, using his strength to hold off Corbett and get turned towards goal. His ball into the box was excellent, picking out Hunter, but the forward was under pressure from White and couldn’t get enough on it to turn it on target. The pressure eventually told, Ards awarded yet another set piece, this time a corner wide right. Connor Maxwell was on corner duty today and this one he got spot on, again aiming for the near post and this time the plan worked as Adam McCallum was on the spot to head in from close range. Henderson in the Dundela goal had no chance, 1-0 as we head towards the half time break.

2 mins time added on at the end of the first half before the ref took us into the interval.

No changes for either side at the break, Ards get the game restarted through Ross Hunter with a 1-0 lead.

Ards carried on from where they left off towards the end of the first half, Callum Dougan once again creating for Ards in the first minute of the second half. Great skill from the front man to turn Jake White inside out, I expect the centre half is still looking for him. Having beaten his man Dougan carried it to the by-line before lifting the ball to the back post, Aidan Steele was there but couldn’t get on the end of it allowing the Duns to clear. Great intent from Ards at the start of half. Ards continued to dominate in the early stages of the half, Ross Hunter taking the game to the Duns carrying the ball half the length of the pitch. He fronted up McGovern in the box, moved the ball to try and curl a shot to the far post but McGovern was able to adjust and get something on it and make the block. Great work from the Ards striker.

Ards' Adam McCallum had a big say in this game at both end of the pitches

Ards had an effort or two cleared off the line in the first half but on the hour mark it was our turn to clear a Dundela effort off the line, Michael Ruddy the man in the right place at the right time. McMasters must have thought his header was destined for the back of the net but Ruddy had other ideas and made a great clearance to preserve Ards’ slender lead. A fright indeed and one that seemed to have given them a lift as they pressed on to try and extend their lead, Cafolla and Taggart both going close within minutes of each other. Cafolla tried his luck from distance on 68’, a really well hit strike angled towards the near post, Henderson was beat but the ball flashed the wrong side of the post. A real head in hands moment there as that looked to be goal bound from the moment it left his boot. Taggart stepped up just two mins later, showing us his skill by easily stepping round McGovern, having now made the space for himself he lined up a shot, but Jake White was on the ball and had stepped in to cover his teammate and make a block at the near post. Good work by the centre half but Ards really determined to extend their lead and make the last 20 mins a bit more comfortable.

With time running out for the Duns they made their changes and went in search of a late equaliser. While the home side did create chances in the last 10 mins Alex Moore wasn’t exactly stretched at any time, the line in front of him doing well to repel the Duns. Sam Dinu, formerly of Ards, went close at the back post on 90’, getting on the end of a David McMaster corner but he was at full stretch and his header was high, looping over the bar. Their best chance arrived just as we ticked into the 94th minute of the game, Andy Hall’s header directed on target. It was a tame header, little power on it, but still had to be dealt with in a dangerous area and Connor Maxwell was there to do just that in the very last knockings. It was getting very tense in the stands as we ticked down to the end, Ards still holding onto the narrowest of leads.

Ards win back to back league games for the first time this season

Having indicated a minimum of 5 additional minutes, referee Stewart eventually brought the game to an end after 6 had been played as Ards held on for a well deserved 1-0 win and 3 very valuable points. Back-to-back wins for the first time this season and now unbeaten in 7 games in all competitions. It was a great team display today with several players in the frame for MOTM had one to be selected. Great to see the team working so well together, solid at the back and umpteen chances being created at the other end through a mix of individual brilliance and teamwork. The only slight concern would be that we only scored 1 whereas on another day, a more clinical showing, we could easily have had 3 or 4, but take nothing away from a great 3 points, a top display in all areas of the pitch. Great support from the bench as well as we lost 2 key players through the game but with plenty of quality available on the bench to accommodate.

Those 3 points for Ards, combined with today’s other results, saw us continue the climb up the league, now resting in 7th place and just 6 points off the top spot. The competitive nature of this league and the results we are getting shows what an unpredictable season we’re in for with most sides capable or taking points off each other. Another big game on the horizon next week as we welcome ex-Ards boss Niall Currie and his Portadown side to Clandeboye Park. Having started the season being most people’s picks for automatic promotion, the Ports have won their last 3 on the bounce but that was on the back of 3 consecutive defeats, so it hasn’t exactly gone to plan for them. Both sides will be going into this one in great form, another mouth-watering tie in prospect. Those 3 wins for the Ports see them now sit 2nd in the table, just above the Duns on goal difference. Ards will be looking to continue moving up the league and keep their run going.

Starting Line-up:

Moore, Greer, McCallum, Ruddy(c)(87’), Maxwell, Taggart(92’), Tipton, Steele, Hunter, Cafolla, Dougan


Shields, Hamill(87’), Dupree(92’), McAllister, Miller, Jallow, C Scannell

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