County Antrim Shield – Round 1
Report by Phillip Bartlett
Ards travelled to the National Stadium to take on the reigning Irish Premier League champions Linfield in a rescheduled first round tie in the County Antrim Shield with both teams making a significant number of changes to their starting line-ups. Having made his 350th appearance for the club on Saturday, fan favourite Craig ‘Wack’ McMillen took the captains armband for the game.
Linfield controlled the early stages of the half, retaining possession and testing the Ards defence which remained solid and well organised, restricting Linfield to few clear-cut chances. There was a worrying moment for the Ards fans early on when Carry lost his footing and a defensive header bounced narrowly wide of the post.
Ards, while being somewhat wasteful with their limited possession in the first half, still managed the first real chance on goal and if not for a smart save by Johns would have seen the Championship team take the lead. Calderwood stole possession outside the Linfield box, delivered a short pass to Arthurs who laid the ball off perfectly to Aaron Brown whose strike was saved well by Johns in the Linfield goal.
The only goal of the game came late in the first half when Donnelly’s shot took a deflection past a stranded Carry. The goal came just minutes after a superb last-ditch challenge by O’Hare took Marshalls shot just over the cross bar.
In time added on in the first half Ards were awarded a freekick just outside the box and dead centre, the kick was taken by Wack but was hit straight into the wall. Linfield cleared the second ball, and the referee brought the action to a halt for half time.
Linfield got the second half underway and immediately went on the attack and only for another brilliant block by O’Hare at the near post the score line remained 1-0. There was a similar pattern building in the second half as with the first, with Linfield controlling possession and building pressure on the Ards defence.
Ards did get a foothold in the game and had a good spell of possession and created some half chances, most notably Dylan O’Kane’s effort when he picked the ball up 40 yards from goal and drove at the Linfield defence. His shot was well struck but rising and eventually went over the Linfield crossbar.
In the latter stages of the half Linfield slowed the game down with their quick passing and possession, making good use of the huge pitch at the National Stadium. John Bailie made some substitutions to encourage his Ards side to get higher up the pitch, taking Ferrin off at the back and replacing him with Salou, having already replaced Arthurs with the fresher O’Neill up top. Dinu was brought on at left back allowing Glover a more attacking role on the left flank.
There was a moment of excitement for the Ards as the match ticked past the 90 minutes as Young’s ‘cross come shot’ had the Linfield GK Johns scrambling back to tip the ball over the bar.
Ards will feel they have missed a great opportunity to progress against a much-changed Linfield side and in front of a large travelling support, including many of the players friends and family numbering well over 100 in the away area. The manager and players now must refocus on the league campaign and the upcoming away trip to Knockbreda on Saturday.
Carry, Young, O’Kane, McMillen, Arthurs, Ferrin, O’Hare, Glover, Calderwood, Murray and Brown
Dinu, O’Neill and Jallow
Subs not used:
Neeson, McGrandless, Scannell and McCurry