Danske Bank Premiership
Saturday, 10 March, 2018
By Adrian Monaghan
On a pitch that resembled Barr’s Bay at low tide, Ballinamallard started the game like a team with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Hutchinson sent over a cross-cum-shot that Sam Johnston was glad to see land on the top of the netting. Ards were flat-footed and Stephen O’Flynn had a great chance to open the scoring after five minutes, but his composure deserted him and he missed the target.
The Mallards had peaked too early though and this would be their last meaningful effort as Ards took the game by the scruff of the neck. Keke, spotting Richard Brush off his line, had a speculative effort from distance, but his shot missed the target by inches.
On eight minutes Jonny Frazer went down the right and clipped the ball into the six-yard box, Ross Clarke collected and cut inside the full-back then beat Brush with a low shot which took a wicked deflection on its way.
Seven minutes later Frazer found Kyle Cherry in the centre, Cherry played a diagonal pass to Clarke who turned Kerr inside out before firing past Brush for his second.
Clarke turned provider on twenty-nine minutes when his fiercely driven corner kick was met by Callum Byers at the near post and the youngster headed into the net with a statuesque home defence looking on helplessly. The Dundonald student celebrated his recent contract extension with his first ever senior goal for the club.
With fifteen minutes remaining Ryan O’Reilly impeded Cameron Stewart as he headed for goal, already on a yellow card, the referee had no option but to dismiss him. Clarke took the free-kick on the right and caught the home keeper napping by putting the ball past him at his near post.
In the final ten minutes the away support were treated to an abundance of flicks, step overs and back heels as Ards indulged in a bit of showboating. All the trickery couldn’t produce any more goals though.
This was a fantastic performance from Ards. Solid at the back, dominant in the middle with Tommons supplying the industry, Cherry the flair, while Keke and Stewart worked tirelessly up front. Frazer and Clarke were superb on the flanks, Clarke, with a superb hat-trick, being particularly impressive.
Ross Clarke’s trio of goals were the first scored by an Ards player in the Premiership since David Rainey’s hat-trick against Newry in April 2005.
The win moved Ards up to eighth place above Dungannon Swifts, whose game with Warrenpoint was postponed.
S.Johnston, R.Glendinning, M.Ruddy, C.Byers, J.Taylor, G.Tommons, J.Frazer, K.Cherry, G.Keke, C.Stewart, R.Clarke. Subs used: S.Davidson (for Cherry 79’), M.McLellan (for Stewart 79’), J.Kelly (for Tommons 80’). Subs unused: L.Kelly, J.Mitchell.