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  • Writer's pictureMichael Barritt

Knockbreda 2 Ards 3 – Match Report

NIFL Playr-Fit Championship – 02/09/23

By Phillip Bartlett

Ards ‘Steele’ themselves to Victory

Ards hold on to take their first 3 points of the season as they defeat basement club Knockbreda

Still without a win after the opening 4 fixtures, the importance of this game for all concerned can not be understated as both sides press for their first ‘W’ of the season as the pressure mounts. Breda have yet to earn a point this season, and currently find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table, but Ards haven’t exactly fared much better with only 2 points on the board. Both teams will be going all out to change that today. The away side will fancy their chances having earned themselves two hard fought draws against top opposition recently, but Breda Park has not been the easiest of destinations for the Red and Blue of late having been defeated on 2 of our last 3 visits.

One change to the Ards starting 11 from the last match as Paddy Cafolla misses out having suffered a hamstring injury in the first half against the Welders. He is replaced in the side by Callum Dougan, Ards adopting a similar 1-4-3-3 formation but being forced into a slight positional change as Dougan leads the line up top supported by Eamon Scannell and Ross Hunter on either side of him. George Tipton, Ethan Taggart and Aidan Steele make up the midfield trio while the back 5, including the keeper, remains unchanged as Max Greer is able to start despite also being taken off through injury against H&W Welders. Glad to see he has recovered in time for this one. Matt Gorman and James McLaughlin are restored to the bench, replacing Dougan who starts and Hamill who drops out. New Knockbreda front man Guillaume Keke will need no introduction to the Ards fans having spent several seasons at the North Down club, while ex-Ards players Lewis Higginson and Callum McVeigh are named on the Breda bench.

Callum Dougan back into the Ards starting line-up after his equaliser last week against the Welders

At the fifth time of asking Ards finally claimed their first win of the season taking home a very valuable 3 points as they ran out 3-2 winners against bottom of the table Knockbreda. Ards dominated the first hour of the game, running into a comfortable 3-0 win before Breda began their fight back late in the game. Having looked a certainty to see out the game without incident, Ards did their best to cede their advantage, Knockbreda scoring twice within 10 second half minutes to reduce the deficit. At 3-2 Breda were a team on the up but the game took a turn back in Ards favour as the home side were reduced to 10 men shortly after scoring their second goal. With 20 minutes left to play, Ards now with both a goal and man advantage, it seemed inevitable that they would hold out for the win, but it was far from comfortable as Breda pushed them all the way. Despite being a man down, and at one stage 3-0 down, the home side might consider themselves unlucky not to have gotten something from the game. 3-2 the final score and finally something for the Ards fans to cheer at the 5th time of asking and now 3 games unbeaten.

Ards opened the scoring on 28’ Aidan Steele grabbing his first for the club, nothing less than they deserved after dominating the first half hour. They really should have been further ahead but found themselves very wasteful in front of goal in the opening stages. Ards could well have taken the lead as early as the 5th minute, Ethan Taggart’s early effort deflected over the bar from close range, having saw his first effort crash back off the post. Ards were getting a lot of joy down the left, both Maxwell and Scannell creating great chances but the finish was lacking yet again. Ards opening goal scorer Steele went close to beating Fry on 15’ as he struck from distance. It caught Fry a little by surprise, but the Breda #1 was able to recover his ground and tip it over the bar. A decent strike and a good save to boot.

Ards kept pressing, putting together some fast flowing moves that Breda just couldn’t live with. On 26’ the travelling fans couldn’t believe what they were seeing as Dougan, having picked up a brilliant position in the box, was unable to force his header into the goal with only Fry to beat from 3 yards out. It really looked like it was going to be one of ‘those days’ but up stepped Aidan Steele, full of confidence having gone close earlier in the game. Another shot from distance, from a very similar position as the last, but this time Fry was unable to repel the shot and could only watch as it arrowed into the back of the net. Finally, the deadlock had been broken, Ards taking a deserved lead and a very well-deserved goal for Steele himself who has performed admirably in the middle of the park.

Aidan Steele celebrates grabbing the opening goal and his first for the club

Ards carried on creating chances and, once again, will be kicking themselves that they hadn’t converted more than the one chance as we neared the interval. As we headed to the break Ards caught Breda napping, a brilliant through ball picked out E Scannell who had beat the offside trap and got beyond the Knockbreda defence. Fry was quick off his line trying to close down the angle and put Scannell under some pressure but having lost the foot race there was only one outcome, a deft touch placed just beyond the onrushing keeper by Scannell, and the ball rolled into the back of the net resulting in Scannell’s now trademarked celebrations. Ards 2-0 to the good with the interval looming. 3 additional minutes of time added on were played before Ards took a well-deserved break, a comfortable 2-0 lead and plenty of happy away support.

No changes for Ards at half-time as we got the game going again.

Ards restarted the game after the break looking to extend their advantage in the early stages, but it was Breda who had the better start to the half, Rutkowski going close to halving the deficit from a McGreevy freekick. It was a well-directed free kick wide left, the Breda front man did well to get on the end of it but was unable to direct it towards goal. Despite being on the back front early on Ards quickly picked up where they left off extending their lead through Ross Hunter on 51’. Very tidy finish by the Ards forward looking very sharp in the box as he combined well with Dougan to slip the ball past Fry and into the back of the net, the Breda defence seemingly unable to handle the pace of the Ards front line. 3-0 the score early in the second half, Ards in a commanding position.

Ross hunter giving Ards a commanding 3-0 lead early in the second half

Ards carried on pressing, dominating the basement team, and enjoying playing with a bit of freedom for a change. They were playing some really good football and it looked by all accounts that they would only increase their advantage as the game continued. As is the norm with Ards we seldom do things the easy way and on the hour mark Breda hit back, Lee McGreevy scoring from a freekick about 30 yards from goal just to the left of the area. It was a brilliant free kick, up and down over the wall to the near side of the goalkeeper. Moore was covering the far side of the goal and couldn’t cover the ground in time as the ball sailed into the top corner. It was a clumsy challenge to give away the set piece but given the position the danger looked low, McGreevy with other ideas. Sometimes all you can do is admire the finish. 3-1 the score with a 1/3 of the game yet to play.

I’m not sure if the goal raised Knockbreda as much and damped the Ards performance but from that point on Ards were really on the back foot, the home side with a new lease of life. The complexion of the game had entirely changed after that goal and it got worse for the away side as Knockbreda further reduced the deficit on 68’, ex-Ards front man Keke in the right place at the right time to punish his former side. It was a neat finish, sliding the ball under Moore and into the back of the net but Ards really should have cleared the danger well before it reached that stage. 3-2 and the game was back in the balance, Ards now reeling while Knockbreda were much the more positive and looking likely to complete the comeback. Ards had a bit of luck, the game turning once again in their favour as Breda’s Eddie Shaw was shown a red card after collecting his second booking of the game for a late challenge on Ards goal scorer Aidan Steele. It was a poor challenge and deserving of the booking despite their protestations.

Going into the last 20 mins, Ards now with a man and a goal advantage, it would be easy to think the game was done but credit to Knockbreda as they didn’t give up despite the setbacks. Ards were struggling to mount much in the away of attack pretty content to sit back and protect their slender lead. That game plan changed on 76’ as DeeDee McAllister was introduced and he had only one thing in mind, get on the front foot and get beyond the Breda back line whenever possible. McAllister was aggressive and intent on getting beyond his man, successfully reaching the by-line on several occasions and delivering dangerous balls into the box. Ards were unable to make anything of the chances, McLaughlin having been brought on as a target man up top. He was lively in the area but well marshalled by the Breda defenders. More positive from an Ards point of view and the ball was up the right end of the pitch.

DeeDee McAllister, subbed on in today's game and immediately gave the whole team a lift

Not sure where it came from but there was 5 additional minutes played at the end of the game during which Ards remained composed, not taking any unnecessary risks and eventually seeing the game out to claim a well deserved 3 points. Despite dominating the majority of play the game was not without its struggles, Ards seeming to lose confidence after conceding the first goal. The red card came at a time when Breda were on the up and ultimately helped Ards get over the line. 3-2 the final score and having only scored 2 goals in the opening 4 matches of the season another 3 goals in this one will be very welcome, goals being hard to come by thus far. While Ards could have done little about the first goal they will need to reflect on their reaction after the fact as they opened the door and allowed Breda to hit back.

Up to the heady heights of 10th in the table and we are now 3 games unbeaten, but it doesn’t get any easier as Ballyclare are up next on match day 6. Last time out we were on the end of a very heavy 5-1 defeat as the season came to a close and while the Comrades have had an up and down opening to the season, they have picked up some good results along the way. Plenty of positives from this one, and while there are some areas of concern the green shoots of hope are there for all to see, long may it continue.

Plenty to ponder for the management and coaching staff but undoubtedly happy with the first win of the season

Starting Line-up:

Moore, Greer, McCallum, Ruddy(c), Maxwell, Taggart, Tipton, Steele, Hunter(76’), E Scannell(62’), Dougan(62’)


Shields, Gorman, Dupree, McAllister(76’), C Scannell(62’), Jallow, McLaughlin(62’)

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