LARNE U18s 2 V 2 ARDS U18s
Ards U18s travelled to Larne on Friday evening in their opening fixture in the NIFL Academy League, exactly 30 weeks since their last competitive fixture due to Covid-19 Pandemic.
More or less a completely new look Under 18s side with only 4 players featuring who played last year. They started the game brightly on the front foot playing some great football as they dominated the early part of the first half, Reece Atkinson & Cain Stewart both went close but it was Karl Martin who opened up the scoring, last years managers player of the year placed a lovey free kick beyond the Larne keeper on the 14th minute mark to put his side in front. As expected that made Larne raise their game, they where very dangerous on the counter attack and they levelled 10 minutes later after Ards failed to clear their lines, their winger capitalised and put it on a plate for their striker to tap home. The Ards side continued to create chances building their play from defence into midfield but just lacked a real cutting edge in the final third as it reminded level at the break.
Larne 1-1 Ards
Ards started the second half the same way they started the first on the front foot putting pressure immediately on the Larne defence, Jacob Duckett made a great run from midfield and combined with Max Kennedy before slotting past the keeper to make it 2-1. From then Ards had chances to go further in front, Kennedy & James Watson both had chances, Stewart had a tame effort saved then Aaron Macrory had the ball in the net only for the referee to rule it out for a foul on the goalkeeper. As Ards continued to play their football in search of a 3rd Larne broke at the other end and worked the ball our wide before their wide man drove in and finished under keeper Ewan Smyth. With 15 minutes left on the clock their only looked like one team in search of the winner, substitute Riain Burns added some much needed fresh legs and came close, Ards claimed for a penalty shortly after when Duckett went down inside the box, only for the referee to wave away the protests.
Larne 2-2 Ards.
A point on the board in the opening game of the season, travelling to a Larne side filled with talent with players benefiting from their full time Btec diploma course.
Goals scored by - Karl Martin & Jacob Duckett
MOTM - Jacob Duckett
Starting XI - Smyth, Corbett, Brownlee, Macrory (C), Murphy, Martin, Duckett, Watson, Atkinson, Kennedy, Stewart
Substitutes - Burns, Nelson, Scott, Chapman
“First of all it’s just great to see the boys back playing football again, it’s been such a weird year for everyone. We have a lot of new faces this year and they are all still getting to know each other, but credit their attitude has been fantastic so far. We have a new structure in place this year that’s been brought in by first team manager John Bailie around formations, style of play and having the U18s & U20s training as a development group. We created some great chances against Larne and the fact the boys have travelled away and are disappointed leaving with a point tells us as coaches everything. It is certainly a working progress that won’t come together over night”