Danske Bank Premiership
April 28th 2018
By Jana McCabe
With many sore legs amongst the 20 or so brave Ards fans who walked to the game from the Ards Social Club in support of Cancer Focus NI and the Special Efforts Committee, Ards took on Dungannon Swifts in the final game of the season. An Ards victory meant that the home side would finish in 8th position, but a Swifts win or a draw would mean that they would occupy 8th place in the final league table of the season. So, rather than a meaningless end of season clash, this contest was an important game for both sides.
Ards opened the scoring just 60 seconds in to the first half when a long clearance from Sam Johnston was headed on by Adam Brown to Michael McLellan whose clean strike from the edge of the area lobbed Stuart Addis to make it 1-0 to Ards.
Following a few half chances for both sides, McLellan nearly scored again in the 17th minute but his free kick just cleared the bar. Sam Johnston kept the game at 1-0 when he produced a fine save to stop Rhyss Campbell's shot in the 22nd minute. Then, in the 33rd minute, Johnston was called in to action again, pulling off a good save to deny Grant Hutchinson.
Cameron Stewart then fell badly following an aerial challenge and had to be stretchered off the field and taken to hospital with both sets of fans applauding him as he left the pitch and then the ground, to be replaced by Marc McKenna.
Luke Kelly's superb tackle then denied Caolin Coyle in the 40th minute before, as an entertaining first half drew to a close, the Swifts levelled matters when, in the 43rd minute, Marc Patton's brilliant strike found the right hand corner. So the first half finished level, with all to play for in the second half.
Just one minute in to the second half, Sam Johnston vitally denied Paul McElroy's edge of the box strike. However it only took the Swifts another 8 minutes to go ahead when, in the 54th minute, a powerful header from Jarlath O'Kane made it 1-2.
Ards were quick to respond when, in the 58th minute, Adam Brown did well to win the ball back, beating a number of Swifts players and keeping his composure to slide the ball in to the bottom left hand corner of Addis's net, for his first goal for Ards and in some style.
Gareth Tommons was then replaced by Nathan Hanley, before Jonny Frazer made it 3-2 in the 68th minute when he tricked Coyle and 'keeper Addis to coolly find the back of the net. Addis then pulled off a vital save when a great pass from Frazer found McLellan whose close range effort failed to find the back of the net and seal the game for the home side.
McLellan was then replaced by Timmy Browne, before Dungannon stalwart Terry Fitzpatrick took to the field for his last appearance for the Swifts after 25 years' faithful service. Could he be what Dungannon needed to snatch all 3 points?
Timmy Browne just failed with another chance to seal the game for Ards as his header was just over in the 79th minute. The goals continued though in the 87th minute when a free kick from substitute Ryan Mayse found Rhyss Campbell whose volley made it 3-3.
Then, in the dying seconds of the game, Johnston was penalised for a foul on Paul McElroy and the Swifts were awarded a questionable penalty. Loyal Swift Fitzpatrick stepped up to the mark and calmly found the target to seal the game for the Swifts with the final kick of his career!
A vital 3-4 win for the Swifts, with Sam Johnston deservedly picking up the man of the match award for Ards after a busy afternoon.
So, a defeat for Ards in the final home game of the season. However this defeat should not take away from an entertaining season, full of many highs, a few lows, some shocks and plenty of fun. Ards finish in 9th place, with Crusaders dramatically sealing the title on the final day, with Ballinamallard relegated and Carrick having to face a relegation play-off.
I'd like to say thank you to everyone who reads my reports, and special thanks to Stuart Dellow, Adrian Monaghan, Ivor Edgar and Richard Murdoch for their help. It means a lot. Have an amazing summer and roll on the 2018-9 season.
Sam Johnston, Luke Kelly, Callum Byers, Adam McAleenan, Michael Ruddy, Josh Kelly, Gareth Tommons, Adam Brown, Jonny Frazer, Cameron Stewart, Michael McLellan
Marc McKenna (for Cameron Stewart), Nathan Hanley (for Gareth Tommons) & Timmy Browne (for Michael McLellan). Unused: Matthew Torrens & Jonah Mitchell