NIFL Championship – 12/11/22
By Phillip Bartlett
A ‘Scannell-dalous’ second half performance launches Ards to 5th spot
Win one, lose one seems to be a running theme of late for Ards and it was another defeat last time out to newly promoted side Newington at Clandeboye Park. It was a terrible game of football for anyone who turned out to see it but 4 days later and again Ards will be looking to reset their season away to the Welders. The season started at this very destination with a well-deserved 2-0 win, Ards will be looking to emulate that result or even better it and pick up a much needed 3 points. With only 2 wins this season the Welders will be keen to add another W to that record and with no fewer than 5 ex-Ards men in their match day squad, there will be plenty trying to get one over on their old side.
Ards reverted to the same starting 11 that lined up to defeat Ballinamallard last Saturday with leading goal scorer Eamon Scannell returning to the side, having missed out mid-week against Newington. Ards had no recognised backup goalkeeper on the bench with Craughwell missing out and Salou Jallow was not in todays match day squad. Luke McKendry was brought in to fill the empty seat on the bench after making his Ards league debut in this fixture on the opening day of the season.
Prior to today's kick off there was a small on-field ceremony in honour of Remembrance Day. Impeccably observed by both sets of players and fans.
Ards starting 11 lining up for the act of Remembrance before today's kick off
A Jekyll and Hyde team from match to match of late, today it was Jekyll and Hyde within the same game, with the first 50 odd minutes of this one something to quickly forget. The last 40 mins however were full of great passing displays, solid defending and some excellent goal scoring. The Welders took a first half lead into the break and were very much still on top in the early stages of the second half, despite Ards equalising after just 5 mins through Scannell. The home team retook the lead on 57’ after some poor Ards defending had allowed McLellen to latch onto a McMurtry cross and finish well. Having now gone behind for a second time, Ards stepped it up and it became a red and blue rout as we grabbed 4 unanswered goals, Ards running out eventual 5-2 winners. Salley grabbed the equaliser; Hunter continued his impressive scoring record to put us in front while Ards top goal scorer Scannell took the game away from the Welders grabbing 3 on the day to claim Ards a massive 3 points and himself the match ball.
The Welders got the game going and from an Ards perspective there isn’t a whole lot of positives to reflect upon in the opening 45 minutes. Ards started on the front foot, getting on the attack from minute 1’ through Paddy Cafolla. His early shot from the left had to be tipped over by ex-Ards shot stopper Sam Johnston, great intent from the off. Ards kept the pressure up in the early stages creating some half chances, giving the Welders very little chances to counter but failed to test the keeper again. The Welders eventually did string an attack together that resulted in a corner on the Ards right on 7’. That corner proved to be the key and Welders opened the scoring with their first effort on goal. The ball was sent in by McMurtry, met well by Byers on the edge of the box and destined for the goal. It seemed an easy save for Moore, but McMurray was lurking yards from the goal line and intervened to knock it past the keeper. Poor goal to concede by Ards, work to be done.
Ards really struggled to put any meaningful play together for the remaining 38 minutes of the half, conceding that goal seemingly drained their confidence also. The back line were rushing clearances, slicing balls in all quarters and really needed to find some composure before the Welders took further advantage. The Welders had all the remaining chances on goal in the first period and if not for Moore in the Ards goal we would definitely have been behind a bigger deficit at the break. Moore was there on 27’ when McLellan found himself on the end of a Kinner cross from the right, the ex-Ards striker met the ball well but there was little power on it and Moore had positioned himself well to make the save. Moore was again called into action on 38’ as the Welders kept up the pressure. A corner was awarded on the Ards left, a deep ball played in towards the back post. Moore tracked across goal and got a good strong hand on it to clear the immediate danger, but the ball remained in play. The Welders kept the ball alive in the Ards penalty area as Owens challenged with Taylor. The Welders number 5 went down in the box under the challenge prompting half-hearted calls for a penalty but the ref waved it away as the ball was hit out for an Ards goal kick. Not pretty by any stretch but Ards keeping the score line at 1-0.
There was an additional minute of time added on played at the end of the first half before the referee blew up for the interval. Much to work on over the break for Ards as they haven’t laid a glove on the Welders for 40 odd minutes.
There were no changes for either team at the break as Ards kicked off to resume the game looking to provide much more in an attacking sense in this 45.
Early joy for Ards as that man Scannell can’t stop scoring at the minute, Ards level after 51’ in this game. Salley did well challenging for a high ball, it fell kindly for Hunter who combined with Scannell to make the goal. Hunter picked the ball up inside right in the Welders half, took one touch and played it square to Scannell who was in space. He settled himself and hit a great first time ball into the near post, Johnston with no chance due to the power on the shot, 1-1 the score, finally something for the travelling supports to cheer. Some 60 seconds later there would have been plenty of ecstatic RABA in the stands had Salley put his header the right side of the post. Great ball in from the right by TJ picking out Salley. Great connection on the ball but he directed it the wrong side of the post. Should have done better, great chance to completely turn the game around early in the second half.
Ards were punished again for not taking chances and the joy of equalising was short lived, our defensive frailties being exposed again. The Welders ran the ball well down their right flank through Ferguson, he laid the ball back with a clever roll back to the supporting McMurtry who sent in a first-time cross finding McLellan as he made the run across Hall in the Ards defence. He connected well firing it past Moore, no chance for the Ards keeper. Ards behind again but have been much brighter in these opening stages of the half.
Ards turned the game on its head with 4 goals in 13 excellent minutes Salley first bringing us level for a second time before in form Ross Hunter put Ards in front for the first time in the game. Star man Eamon Scannell grabbed his second and third goals, Ards fourth and fifth to kill off any hopes the Welders had of getting anything from this game.
Celebrating as Adam Salley got Ards back on level terms for the second time in the game
Salley’s goal came on 67’ finding himself in the right place to finish following a lucky deflection off Owens. Scannell and Cafolla worked a corner routine, Salley met the first ball flicking it on into the 6-yard box. Owens tried to clear but could only deflect it back to Salley who finished from 2 yards out. He could well have found himself on the score sheet earlier in the piece, but he’s popped up at a crucial time in the game to grab himself a goal. Confidence levels were increasing in all areas of the pitch, those in Red and Blue a second quicker to everything now, starving the Welders of all possession. Hunter was the next beneficiary as he struck to put Ards in front just 3 mins after levelling when he converted on 70’. Crane played a ball over the top from left back, it was met by a Welders head in the middle of the park and inadvertently proved to be a great through ball as Hunter ran onto it and collected beyond the last defender. With just Johnston in the Welders goal to beat, the young forward made no mistake with a composed finish to the keepers left finding the far corner of the goal. Ards in front for the first time in the match.
Ards didn’t let up, looking to put this one beyond doubt and Hunter, having just scored himself, was back playing provider for Scannell again. This time it was a pinpoint cross towards the near post, having spotted Scannell’s run across Byers in the heart of the Welders defence. The Ards #7 met the ball with a great header at the near post, giving Johnston no chance, Ards 4-2 and a bit of distance between the hosts.
That was Hunters’ last action in the game as he was replaced by Ross Arthurs. There was some disappointment in the crowd at Hunter leaving having been so pivotal in the turnaround in the game, but the decision was vindicated as his replacement played a huge part in Ards fifth and final goal setting up Scannell to complete his hat trick and put the match beyond the Welders. Arthurs picked the ball up on the right just inside the Welders half with plenty of space in front to run into. He carried the ball towards goal but rather than take it on himself he played it across goal, spotting Scannell’s supporting run and it was a perfect ball, well weighted allowing Scannell to control and finish, finding the far corner with a really controlled side foot finish.
A brilliant turn around by Tipton’s men after a really lacklustre first half where we seemed devoid of ideas and struggled to pick out a teammate with even the most basic of passes. The second half was a very different story, especially that 13-minute spell where everything we tried worked and worked well. Great passing plays, great attacking moves and more importantly great finishes, chances being converted rather than wasted. Credit to the whole team as it would have been easy to let that one get away from us having gone behind on two occasions.
Team captains and match officials prior to kick off, job well done by the man in the middle today
Ards now up to 5th in the table with today’s other results mostly going in our favour and tightening things up even further in the table. Loughgall still have a 7-point lead at the top of the table but the next 4 teams, seemingly fighting for the promotion spot, are only separated by 6 points so it really is all to play for. We just need to find some consistency and put a few back-to-back wins together. Our last 7 game record reads as W L W L W L W, showing just how inconsistent we have become. Ballyclare are next up as we host them in at Clandeboye Park next Saturday, kick off being at the later time of 18:30 due to Bangor’s cup commitments that day.
Moore, Crane, Taylor, Hall, Young, Cafolla, Taggart, TJ Murray, Scannell, Hunter, Salley
McKendry, Arthurs, Mullen, McAllister, McVeigh, Calderwood, Reynolds