DANSKE BANK PREMIERSHIP
APRIL 21st 2018
By Jana McCabe
Ards went in to the penultimate game of the season hoping to continue where they left off at Carrick last weekend, and also to continue their fine run of form against Ballinamallard this season. The game was crucial for the Mallards who after beating Carrick on Tuesday night are now two points ahead of Carrick with two games to go.
The same eleven who started for Ards at the Loughshore Arena last weekend started this game, in glorious sunshine, at the Bangor Fuels Arena.
Reece Glendinning, making his last appearance for Ards, opened the action in the first minute but his shot was just wide. Ards continued to press for an opener and clever interchange between Michael McLellan and Glendinning found Jonah Mitchell but his header was too high. The ball then made its way back to the busy Glendinning who found Cameron Stewart whose header also failed to hit the target.
Ards opened the scoring in the 10th minute when a long-range pass from Jonny Fraser found McLellan who, despite the challenge of Mallards' defender Matthew Smyth, kept his cool and calmly found the back of the net to make it 1-0 to Ards.
However, only three minutes later in the 13th minute, the Mallards levelled the scoring when the experienced Richard Clarke sped down the left wing, finding team-mate Ryan Curran whose shot went through Sam Johnston's legs to tie the game at 1-1.
Ards pressed to retake the lead two minutes later when the dangerous Fraser again found McLellan, but the Ards goalscorer just failed to test Richard Brush in the away side's goal. In the 30th minute Stewart had a good chance but, as he bore down on goal, his shot was deflected to safety. McLellan's free kick was then just wide, before Mitchell had a shot parried by Brush in the Mallards goal, with the rebound falling to Glendinning whose volley from near the half-way line just cleared the bar as Brush retreated to his goal. Almost a spectacular goal from the Ards defender, with the first half drawing to a close with the sides tied at 1-1.
Stephen O'Flynn's effort from a free-kick was the first action of an uninspiring second half, with McLellan again going close in the 58th minute but his shot was cleared by Ryan Curran. Mitchell was then replaced by Adam Brown before, in the 67th minute, Michael Ruddy's shot was agonisingly close.
In the 69th minute a strong shot by Shane McGinty was well saved by Sam Johnston, before goal-scorer McLellan was replaced by Marc McKenna. A spinning shot from the Mallard's Stuart Hutchinson just failed to trouble Johnston in the 74th minute. In the 80th minute Stewart's shot was cleared to the edge of the box from where Fraser tried his luck but his goalbound shot was deflected out for a corner, which was then easily cleared.
Mark Johnston then replaced Kyle Cherry to make his debut for Ards before, in injury time, Ballinamallard were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box, but James McKenna's shot was easily cleared. In the dying seconds of the game, a scramble in the Ards goal led to Adam McAleenan clearing off the line, with the game ending 1-1. So another point for Ards, with Jonny Fraser picking up the man of the match award, whilst the Mallards lost ground on relegation rivals Carrick who unexpectedly took all three points away from the Oval.
Match Sponsors: Universal Bootleggers
Sam Johnston, Reece Glendinning, Callum Byers, Adam McAleenan, Michael Ruddy, Josh Kelly, Jonah Mitchell, Kyle Cherry, Jonny Fraser, Cameron Stewart, Michael McLellan
Subs: Adam Brown (for Jonah Mitchell), Marc McKenna (for Michael McLellan) & Mark Johnston (for Kyle Cherry)
Unused: Matthew Torrens & Scott McArthur