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  • Writer's pictureMichael Barritt

Dundela 2 Ards 4 – Match Report

NIFL Championship – 29/04/23

By Phillip Bartlett

Salley fires on all ‘four’ cylinders

Ards finish the season on a high, coming out on top at Wilgar Park

Another up and down season comes to an end with the short away trip along the A20 to take on Dundela at Wilgar Park. Ards had a good win last time out at Dundela, a 5-1 victory enough to ensure Ards finished in the top half of the table. Still league position to play for for both sides going into this one, Ards with the potential to overtake Ballyclare in 5th while Dundela could secure a 3rd place finish if things go their way. Outside of team ambitions Ards striker Adam Salley goes into the game 1 goal behind Welders Striker ‘Spike’ Ferguson in the race for the Championship golden boot. With focus on the Ards match, there will still be one eye on the Welders as they host Knockbreda to see how that race pans out. Ards take the advantage into the game, currently unbeaten this season against Dundela, with 2 Ards wins and a New Years Eve 1-1 draw the record thus far. It’s always a poignant time heading into the last game of a season never knowing whose last game it might be for the club. Speculation abounds, but we’ll know more in the close season.

Ross Arthurs, DeeDee McAllister and Greg Hall finishing off another season

Team news for the game and noticeable by his absence on the sheet was Alex Moore, Neil Shields getting his first league start of the season in goal for Ards. Moore was subbed off late last week against Ballyclare and wasn’t quite able to recover to take his #1 spot in time. There were 4 changes in total from the side that started in last weeks demolition to Ballyclare last week. Alongside Moore on the injured list was Cricky Crane both missing out of the match day squad while Ethan Taggart and Conal Young start on the bench. Coming into the side with Shields was DeeDee McAllister, Karl Hamill and Conor Scannell as Ards make a change to the formation, opting for a 1-3-5-2. A back 3 of Hamill and Hall joined by makeshift centre half TJ Murray who has performed admirably at the back for Ards when asked to do so. McAllister and Jallow will be the outlets on the flanks playing as wing-back the options while Salley and Hunter continue to lead the line. No doubt all play will be through Salley as his teammates look to help push him on the top of the scoring charts.

Another game another miserable day for the travelling fans as the weather took a turn for the worse on Saturday. Unlike last week however there was plenty on the field to lift the RABA that had made their way to Wilgar Park marking the end of season with a well-deserved 3 points as we ran out 4-2 winners after a hard-fought battle with Dundela. Ards took a commanding 2-0 lead into half-time, Adam Salley with two great goals in 5 first half minutes. Salley wrapped up his hattrick early in the second half getting his and Ards 3rd just 2 minutes after the restart. 3-0 early in the second and it was comfortable enough for Ards but as is the norm that didn’t last. Ards took their foot off the pedal allowing Dundela to hit back with two goals of their own in just 2 minutes, Jonah Mitchell getting them back in to the game before Andrew Hall reduced the deficit further, 3-2 the score and only 12 minutes of the second half gone. Ards were in a real battle now having looked to have it in the bag when 3-0 to the good. Ards did eventually wrap up the game on 75’ when Salley was put through for his 4th of the game to seal the win and grab himself the Championship top goal scorer award in doing so.

Ards got the game under way but somehow lost possession early on and saw the ball end up in the back of their net with only 45 seconds gone. Fast start by Dundela, pressing Ards, but Andrew Hall’s finish was chalked off due to a raised lino’s flag as he made his run a touch early. The Duns were enjoying the bulk of the early possession and it was no surprise that they produced the opening chance of the game David McMaster threatening from wide left on 10 mins. It was a well hit strike across goal, heading towards the bottom corner, but Ards replacement keeper Shields got down well to his left and got a strong hand to it to divert it out for a corner. Dundela kept pressing, keeping Ards on the back foot, Tony Kane firing a freekick just over the bar right in front of goal shortly after. The home side really should have opened the scoring on 19’, Andy Hall somehow heading Dean Lewis’s cross over the bar when unmarked in the box. Poor defending again by Ards not spotting the run and we get away with it on this occasion.

How many goals did you get today Adam? He's keeping the ball as well.....

Relief quickly turned to joy for the travelling fans as just 2 mins after looking like going behind we went up the other end and took the lead, Adam Salley slipping the ball under Cairns in the Duns goal after some neat work in the middle of the park, Jallow with the through ball, Salley no mistake with the finish before making his way to the supporters displaying his now trademark celebration. No time to rest for the away supporters as 1-0 quickly becomes 2-0, Salley in the right place to double his and Ards advantage. This time a fantastic ball crossed in by DeeDee McAllister from wide left picked out Salley at the back post. He let the ball bounce before lifting it into the back of the net, Cairns no chance. A really composed finish, something we’ve come to expect from the #25 over the course of the season. 2-0 after 25 minutes and Ards firmly in the driving seat having had to sit back and absorb some early pressure.

An eventful half did settle down after the flurry of goal mouth activity, the play confined to the middle of park where the midfield of both sides trying to control the play, keepers at either side happy to be out of the firing line for a short time. There were a couple of set pieces shared between the sides, but the quality of delivery made it easy for the defensive team to clear. Heading into the break Dundela tried to lift it and get themselves back into the game before the interval, ex Ards man Jake Corbett going close, bending an effort just wide of the near post. Mitchell and Stewart passing the ball well between themselves, keeping the Ards defence guessing before laying the ball square to Corbett. He stepped on to it and hit it first time with the outside of the boot but didn’t get enough on it to take it inside the post as Shields watches go wide. As we near the half time whistle Dundela are awarded a freekick some 30 yards from goal, just right of the 18-yard box. Hall takes this time, but his effort doesn’t trouble Shields and the referee takes us into the interval. Ards leading 2-0.

No changes from the Ards side as they come back out for the last half of football in the 2022/2023 season. Leading 2-0 at the break they’ll be looking to come out and kick on from here.

And Kick on they did! Adam Salley completing his hattrick in just the second minute after the break from a freekick well outside the box. 35 yards out, only one man was going to be taking this, he’s lined it up it’s really well hit, takes a deflection of the wall which wrong foots Cairns in the Duns goal. He’s unable to react quick enough and despite getting a hand to it can’t keep it out. Ards 3-0 to the good, Adam Salley with all the goals to take an outright lead at the top of the charts. Salley was back in action several minutes later, Conor Scannell putting him through in the box after some great footwork to get past Corbett in midfield. Salley collected the ball and tried to cut inside to the penalty spot when it seemed like the first-time shot was on. He was eventually squeezed out by the Duns defence and the ball ran out for a goal kick.

10 mins into the second half and Ards were in total command at 3-0 up but as we have seen so often this season little lapses have cost us before and within 2 mins Dundela were well back in the game at 3-2. The Duns had a bit of luck with the first, Corbett challenging for the ball on the ground, and it breaks kindly for Stewart to run away with. Hamill tracked him all the way back to goal but couldn’t relieve him of the ball, allowing Stewart to pick out Mitchell at the far post in space. Mitchel controlled the ball, cut inside a finished well past Shields into the far corner. Ards were again on the back foot and very much like the first half were given no time to think as Dundela struck again less than 2 mins later, Andy Hall finishing past Shields this time after Ards failed to clear the danger in the box. 3-2 now the score with well over half hour left to play, very much game on.

Ards were on the ropes at this point, desperately needing to regain some possession and control of the game, and they had their stand in keeper Shields to thank for Dundela not levelling on 62’, denying Mitchell at the back post bravely going to ground at is feet to deny a certain goal. Excellent work by the keeper, not good enough from those in front of him for allowing the chance. McMaster was allowed to cross with little to no pressure and Mitchell seemed to have all the time in the world to control and finish. Fortunately, the Ards #13 was on his toes and saw out the danger.

Ards did manage to regain their composure after the shock of losing 2 quick goals, Conor Scannell again looking very dangerous in the middle of the park and higher up. On 70’ he went close to a 4th for Ards, jinking past two Duns defenders before hitting his shot goal bound. It was a tight angle and he lifted it just over the bar. More positive signs for Ards. They were rewarded shortly thereafter as Salley was again celebrating having grabbed his and Ards 4th of the game. A brilliant finish struck high into the roof of the net after a brilliant ball threaded through the Duns back line by Karl Hamill. The ball was perfectly weighted allowing Salley to let it run across him, take one touch to get it out of his feet before finishing well past Cairns. With just over 15 mins left to go Ards back firmly in control once again.

Young and old celebrating an Ards win to finish off the season. (Peter sneaked in unexpectedly as well)

Both teams continued to create but failed to really test either keeper and after 4 mins of time added on were played the referee brought the game, and the season, to a close, Ards running out 4-2 winners. While for the most part we were comfortable there are periods in games where we do shoot ourselves in the foot. While not costly today it has cost us dearly throughout the season gone. Something to think about for the management and coaching staff in the down season before we do it all again next season.

Great to end the season on a high and there were joyous scenes on the pitch after the final whistle, especially for the Ards #25 when he finally learned that he stood alone at the top of the Championship goal scoring charts, Spike unable to match him on the final day only grabbing himself a brace at home to Knockbreda. Finishing the season with 27 goals to Spikes 26 is a fantastic achievement, a return we have not seen from a forward in red and blue for some time. Fingers crossed he’ll still be wearing that red and blue some next season. Plenty of speculation of potential farewells noted on the final game but nothing yet confirmed.

End of season awards day has been confirmed as May the 13th in the Ards club.

Starting Line-up:

Shields, Hamill, Murray, Hall, McAllister, C Scannell, Cafolla, Steele, Hunter, Salley, Jallow


Young, Taylor, E Scannell, Arthurs, McAllister, Mullen, Clarke

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