NIFL Championship – 08/10/22
By Phillip Bartlett
Hat-trick Salley Knocks Breda out….
After two home wins on the bounce Ards were back on the road taking the short trip to Knockbreda looking to keep their recent run of form going and extend their winning streak to 3 in row. Not too much separating the two teams in the league with both having a mixed start to the season, but Ards could put good distance between themselves and today's opponents with a win and continue their ascent up the table. Ards got the better of Knockbreda last season, but it wasn’t all plain sailing so while confidence is high there will need to be some caution as well.
Ards were once again able to field the same 11 that have won the last two games and it’s no coincidence that this settled side has grown in confidence and getting some good results, picking up some much-needed points along the way. There were two changes on the bench with Aaron Brown and Luke McKendry dropping out and both Ben Mullen and Daniel Reynolds coming in to replace them.
Ards continued their winning run with a convincing 4-1 win although few would have predicted that being the final score line after a very disappointing first half from both sides. Very little cohesive football in the first 45 from either side, the ball spending most of the time in air, but Ards struck late to take a 1-0 lead into the break. The second half saw a different Ards team come back out, they looked much sharper on the ball and really took the game to Knockbreda. Adam Salley showed us all what he can do with some really clinical finishing to claim a hat-trick and the match ball while Eamon Scannell also popped up with his now customary goal. A near perfect performance bar one moment where a lack of concentration allowed Knockbreda to grab a consolation goal and mar Ards clean sheet.
Hat-trick hero Salley claimed the match ball with his 3-goal performance
While the 1st half was certainly nothing to write home about there were some moments of play that suggested a football match could potentially break out. Both sides made decent chances in the opening 15 minutes, but neither could take advantage. Ards actually carved out the first real chance in the opening minute of play when Taggart struck the side netting. It was a long ball sent down by Moore and a clever back heel from Hunter put Taggart through on goal. His effort was wide and hit the side netting, he may well have been better served cutting it back for Salley who had made a run across his man in the box but decided to take the shot on. Anthony Burns looked the most dangerous early on for Breda going close on two occasions early on. The first a tame shot easily gathered the next a header that just went the wrong side of the post.
The delivery from both teams in the first half was very wasteful giving the respective front men very little to work with, with a few exceptions. One of those exceptions came on 42’ when Scannell picked out the run of Salley and played a perfect ball over the top, sending it just beyond the last defender Hamill. An excellent first touch by Salley got the ball out of his feet and with just the keeper to beat he made no mistake, side footing it over the advancing Nicholl and into the back of the net.
Jubilant scenes as Ards again hit the back of the net
Ards arguably could have been in front just minutes before the opener as Calderwood was at it again out wide right. The full back sent in a pinpoint cross picking out Scannell just beyond the penalty spot. He made good contact with his head and if not for a great save by Nicholl in the Breda goal it would have been 1-0 Ards.
Ards leading 1-0 and the referee brought the half to a close with no additional time added on, close to 40 of minutes football that won’t live long in the memory.
There were no changes for either side at the break, the home side getting us back under way after the interval.
Right from the start of the second half you could sense Ards had more about them with several good chances made in the opening few minutes. Goal scorer Salley could have doubled the lead early on but sent his shot just over the bar. Scannell was making a nuisance of himself in the box, found himself a bit of room with the ball but was eventually crowded out before he could get a telling shot away. The pressure finally told as Ards did double their lead, Salley again in the right place to tuck it away on 53’. An Eamon Scannell corner was played back to Crane on the edge of the box, ‘Cricky’ went for goal with a long-ranged effort that caused Nicholl some trouble. The keeper made the save only to see the ball deflect back out the Ards front man all alone on the edge of the 6yd box. With the keeper still on the floor in was an easy finish and Ards were firmly in control after eight 2nd half minutes.
Ards kept up the pressure and given his recent goal scoring run it was of no surprise to the travelling fans that Eamon Scannell popped with another goal giving Ards a 3-0 lead. Ards played a long clearance up the pitch and there initially looked to be no danger, but Scannell didn’t give it up and put McCoubrey under pressure, so much so that the defender left his header back to the goalkeeper short and Scannell was able to nick in front and collect it. Nicholl had advanced far from his goal and kept coming, he made a great initial save from Scannell, but lucky for Ards and unlucky for the keeper the rebound fell for the wide man and his first-time effort was lifted high over the keeper and into the back of the net. 60’ gone and Ards with a commanding lead.
Eamon Scannell celebrates yet another goal for the RABA
Breda were still giving Ards moments of concern with Moore again denying the opposition of a certain goal on 75’. A dangerous ball sent in from the right evaded all the Ards defenders and was met by Munn at the back post. Moore had his angles just right and made the save. Ards keep their 3-goal advantage intact. There was more work for Moore a few minutes later as Breda pressed to get back into the game. Burns started the attack running the ball into the box and putting it across goal to McDermott. The midfield man seemed to take ages to get the ball under control and get his shot away just yards from goal giving Moore time to make up ground across goal and make the save. The second ball was picked up by Munn just 6 yards out and his effort on goal was superbly blocked by TJ Murray going to ground. The ball then fell for McDermott, but he had remained in an offside position and Ards were awarded the freekick. A frantic 15 seconds but Ards did well to repel the attacks and keep their clean sheet.
On 88’ Knockbreda did finally take a chance with Burns finally getting the better of Moore in the Ards goal, much to the frustration of the Ards shot stopper. Montgomery carried the ball across the midfield and played a good through ball to Greer in the 18yd box. Greer played it square first time to Burns who was in acres of space and had all the time in the world to pick out the far corner giving Moore no chance. Ards switching off and getting caught out. That wasn’t the end of the action as there was still time for Salley to complete his hat trick and run away with the match ball. I’m not sure if Breda let him take it but he sure earned it as he tucked away his 3rd on 90+2. He picked the ball up from McVeigh in the middle of the park and made his way towards goal with a lot left to do. He used his strength to hold off the attentions of Clarke and slid it under a diving Nicholl to give Ards a 4-1 victory. It could have been more convincing for Ards as substitute Reynolds had a couple of good chances to get himself on the sheet but couldn’t take them.
Salley tucks away goal number two
The ref played out the remaining moments of time added on, initially set to be a minimum of 4, before blowing the whistle on an excellent 2nd half of football for Ards. Three wins in a row, the same starting 11 for three consecutive games and the travelling RABA can really see the progress being made. Another tough test on the road next week as we make the long trek to the northwest to the Brandywell. An excellent stadium to play football in but one in which we’ve never really had good experiences. Hopefully this good run continues and we right some of those previous wrongs.
Moore, Crane, Taylor, Hall, Calderwood, Scannell, Murray, Cafolla, Taggart, Hunter, Salley
Craughwell, Arthurs, Jallow, Mullen, McVeigh, Young, Reynolds