Knockbreda 2 Ards 1 – Match Report
NIFL Championship – 23/04/22
By Phillip Bartlett
Ards fall to defeat as Breda push for the playoffs
Ards have 90 minutes of football left in the current season, a season that promised so much early on but has failed to deliver. So much so that I expect fans, board, players and management can’t wait to see the back of it. Thoughts should already be on next season, but we still have a duty of care to the league and the competition to ensure that we compete to the end as our next opponents Queens still have a sliver of a chance to grab the all-important 11th place should other results go their way.
Knockbreda should be up for this one as they are running out of games to grab the playoff spot with Queens hot on their heels. Ards fielded a strong starting eleven to ensure fairness across the piece including a return to the starting line for Jamie McGovern, Dee Dee McAllister and Calvin McCurry. Jack Lemoignan was back in goal, Tipton swapping the keepers on a regular basis in these final matches. Ards youth trio of Thomson, Boyd and Bavelock were on the bench while Paddy Cafolla retained the captains armband for this one.
Knockbreda hit the cross bar within the first 90 seconds of this one, a warning to Ards that Breda were going to be up for this game, a warning that was not heeded. Breda were the better team for the most part, and it must be said, they didn’t need to play that well for that to be the case. A lack of concentration and commitment by some in red and blue presented Knockbreda with a rather comfortable 2-1 win, 3 points and a real firm grasp on a playoff to try and retain their Championship status. All the action in this one came in the second half with 3 goals, plenty of chances and a disputed red card whereas the first half was nothing much at all to write about, ending 0-0, but I’ll do my best.
The returning Calvin McCurry seemed to be Ards best bet for a goal in the first half going close on several occasions to breaking the deadlock. Having missed a lot of football recently the Cliftonville loanee was maybe a bit out of practice but an audacious attempt by the Ards number 25 nearly caught Bread napping. He received the ball from Calderwood’s throw high up on the right on 27’. Under pressure and with his back to goal he did really well to protect it, lift it up and try an acrobatic overhead kick towards the back post, he caught it well but it went just the wrong side of the upright with Deane in the Breda goal beaten. He followed that up with arguably the best chance of the half from either side on 42’ when played through on goal by Eamon Scannell. It was a brilliant pass with the outside of the boot, McCurry timed his run to perfection beating the offside trap. An unfortunate bounce of the ball meant he was unable to control it first time. Having seen Deane come off his goal line to close him down he tried to lift it over him into the net with the outside of the boot. A nice idea but it was put wide of the post. Had he been able to keep it on the floor the finish would have been much easier against an advancing Deane.
Breda had their own chances actually hitting the bar within the first 90 seconds through Peter McDermott. Ards had cleared the ball to McCurry who was caught on his heels allowing McDermott to nip in and steal it from him. His touch took it wide and his cross into the box caught the wind and struck the top of the bar. Lemoignan was pretty calm in the Ards goal and had it all under control. There was confusion on 36’ after a coming together between Lemoignan and McKenna just outside the box. The young keeper looked favourite to win it but stopped short as he had travelled out of his box. This allowed McKenna to steal in and win the ball, after which he collided with Lemoignan. The ref first awarded the freekick to Ards but seemed to change his mind after a review with his assistants, much to the bemusement of the Ards players and fans. The freekick was dead centre just on the 18yd line but caused the Ards keeper no trouble as it was hit straight at him.
Breda’s best chance of the half came on 38’ when Stephen Garrett let fly from about 25 yards out after McGovern had missed his clearance. Lemoignan was equal to it making a great save diving at full stretch to his left to put it round the post for a corner. The subsequent corner was easily collected by Lemoignan, and Ards were able to get the ball up the pitch.
Ards restarted the game after the interval and having introduced Benny Igiehon at the break, DeeDee McAllister making way for the striker.
Any good will Ards had mustered in the first half was evaporated in the first 120 seconds of the second half as Knockbreda took the lead in the easiest of fashion. Caught out by a quick throw in on the left, taking two Ards defenders out of the game, it allowed Burns all the time in the world to cut the ball back into the box. The ball seemed to roll through the box for an eternity before Greer emerged unchallenged from the middle of the park to fire it home, via a deflection of Conal McGrandles. Breda 1 Ards 0 after 47’.
On 58’ Ards were presented with a gift of a chance to equalise and pile some pressure on the home side who until this point had largely controlled the game. Paddy Cafolla went on an amazing run from just inside his own half. He’s carried it beyond 3 Knockbreda players and managed to get a shot away while on the run. Destined for the top corner of the goal Deane made a brilliant save tipping it on to the bar. The danger wasn’t away however as the ball dropped at the back post exactly where Igiehon was waiting. He caught it on the volley less than a yard from goal but somehow managed to send it out towards the far side touch line. Incredible miss which really sums up much of Ards season. Breda escape and retain their lead.
Knockbreda increased their lead on 67’ after some comical defending by Ards in the left back position. Stephen Garrett was able to walk past both Crane and McGrandles as if they weren’t there. He took the ball to the bye line unopposed and cut it back to Sloan who was unmarked just outside the 6yd box. He had time to control the ball, take it a yard inside and fire past a helpless Lemoignan in the Ards goal. An incensed RABA couldn’t really believe what they had just witnessed, such ineffective defending, Ards getting exactly what they deserved.
With the game seemingly gone, Ards were reduced to 10 men on 75’ when half time sub Benny Igiehon was shown a straight red card for a suggested elbow. On the highlight review it looked harsh, but the referee was a lot closer to it than myself. The Breda players and fans were convinced, but I’m not sure, I think it was a harsh decision.
Breda had a great chance on 80’ to increase their lead further as Harrison went close to grabbing a third. Glackin had a shot on goal which Lemoignan fumbled sending it back into the box. Harrison and Calderwood were tussling for the second ball with the Breda man getting the final touch and lifting it over the Ards keeper. Fortunately for Ards it hit off the cross bar and Calderwood was alert enough to drop back and clear off the line. With the match heading towards time added on Ards had a late flurry of chances the last of which resulted in a corner on the Ards right. Crane went over to take with his left foot and sent it deep to the back post, the ball evaded everyone and eventually ended up in the back of the net. Ards were back in it at 2-1 but with only injury time remaining. The game restarted but Ards were unable to capitalise and after 3 mins time added on the referee brought the game to an end.
Contrasting emotions between the sides as Knockbreda had all but confirmed 11th spot in the league, earning them a playoff spot, and Ards once again offered up a sub-par performance. Not clinical enough in attack and far too sloppy at the back conceding two more soft goals. More disappointment for the travelling fans in a season that is fast becoming littered with them.
Off to Queens to finish the season and while it seems all but certain that they will be the side automatically relegated the Ards players really owe a final performance to the supporters that have stuck with the team throughout the season. Once done it’s done, we move on a refocus for next season with plenty of changes on the cards.
Lemoignan, Crane, McGrandles, McGovern, Calderwood, McAllister(45), Donnelly, Cafolla, Scannell(63), Arthurs(63), McCurry
Neeson, Dinu, Thompson, Bavelock, Boyd(63), Igiehon(45), Reynolds(63)