By Jana McCabe.
A worrying winter has seen Ards fall four points adrift at the foot of the table, whilst Boxing Day's opponents Institute are currently seventh in the league and came in to the game after an astonishing 6-4 victory against Cliftonville.
In the second minute of play Eamon McAllister’s shot from the far right of the pitch struck the bar as Ards looked for an early opener. Kyle Cherry’s free-kick was then wide of the right-hand post in the fourth minute. In the twelfth minute Gareth Tommons volley was just off target. Then neither Kyle Cherry or Kym Nelson could find the target following a pinpoint cross from McAllister to the back post as Ards continued to dominate.
However, in the thirty second minute, Institute were awarded a controversial penalty when the referee claimed Michael Kerr had handled the ball in the box. Michael McCrudden stood up and took the spot kick, and even though Ards 'keeper Sam Johnston saved two penalties last weekend, he was unable to prevent this one putting the home side 1-0 ahead. Institute's confidence grew as the half progressed with Ronan Doherty’s close-range shot well saved by Johnston, before Aaron Harkin’s free-kick was off target as the first half ended 1-0.
In the opening stages of the second half, Cherry’s volley from a Tommons pass was just wide of the goal. Stute's Stephen Curry then found himself one on one with Sam Johnston but the Ards keeper did well to deny Curry a shot on goal. Goalscorer McCrudden’s shot from the edge of box was wide of the right-hand post in the seventy second minute as Institute looked for a second goal.
In the seventy fourth minute, after a scramble in the box, a shot from the busy McCrudden could only find the left post to the relief of the Red and Blue Army, before Joe McCready’s strong shot was well saved by Johnston in the seventy ninth minute.
The Red and Blue Army's frustration grew as none of the Ards side could take advantage of Ards chances. In the eighty seventh minute, Curry’s shot was off target, and, shortly afterwards, Ards' substitute Mark Kelly’s header from a Tommons corner was cleared by the Stute defence. In injury time Mark Kelly’s pass to McAllister gave him a great opportunity but his strong shot made the Institute keeper produce a fine save and shortly afterwards the game finished 1-0.
So no Boxing Day points for Ards as they continue to struggle to convert their chances. This Saturday, Ards travel to Stangmore Park where their opponents are tenth placed Dungannon Swifts.
Starting 11: Sam Johnston, Michael Kerr, Craig McClean, Callum Byers, Adam McAleenan, Eamon McAllister, Kyle Cherry, Josh Kelly, Gareth Tommons, Kym Nelson and Michael McLellan.
Used Subs: Mark Kelly (for Michael McLellan), Jonah Mitchell (for Kym Nelson) and Ryan Strain (for Kyle Cherry)
Unused Subs: Matthew Davidson, Marc McKenna, Scott McArthur and Aaron Boyd.
Yellow Cards: Adam McAleenan, Kyle Cherry, Callum Byers and Kym Nelson.