North Down Cup
Clandeboye Park, Bangor
July 5th 2018
By Jana McCabe
What better way to start the pre-season friendlies than a North Down derby? Pitch-sharers Bangor and Ards started their pre-season fixtures with a clash for the Spectator and Chronicle Cup.
Mark Kelly, Sean Noble and Michael Kerr were amongst those making their first starts in the red and blue of Ards, with the returning Eamon McAllister and Jason Mooney amongst the subs.
With just six minutes on the clock, ex-Ards striker Ben Roy gave Bangor the lead with a clean strike following a clever through ball from Mark Magennis. Ards pressed for a way back in to the game when clever interchange between Jonny Fraser and Josh Kelly in the 11th minute led to a Bangor foul, with David McAllister's spinning free-kick needing a fine save from the Bangor 'keeper Darren Gibbons.
McAllister looked dangerous again two minutes later when his cross found Michael McLellan, but his header just cleared the bar. Another ex-Ards player Gerard McMullan then had a great chance one-on-one versus the Ards 'keeper Sam Johnston, but his shot failed to find the back of the net and the chance to put the home side 2-0 was lost.
Gibbons then pulled off another fine save to deny another header from McLellan, with the half ending with the home side looking like they were going to surprise most people and lift the trophy.
However it didn't take Ards long to level the scores when a beautiful strike from Fraser from outside the box left the Bangor keeper stunned and beaten. 1-1 after 47 minutes. Then skilful build-up play from McAllister provided Mark Kelly with a golden opportunity to score on his debut, with the chance taken with a cool and calm strike to put Ards 2-1 ahead in the 52nd minute.
Searching for an equaliser, Bangor did strike the crossbar in the 58th minute, but Ards continued to press with Josh Kelly’s overhead kick just over the crossbar in the 61st minute. In the 73rd minute Ards extended their lead when Fraser unselfishly passed to Noble who became the second Ards debutant to score.
Then, just four minutes later, Ards sealed the deal with a fourth and final goal when Marc McKenna’s shot deflected off a Bangor defender and in to the back of the net. 4-1.
Ards then had a good chance to make it 5-1 in the closing stages but good work from Noble was wasted when McArthur failed to test the Bangor ‘keeper.
So Ards are the winners of the 2018 Spectator and Chronicle Cup, with a comprehensive victory in the end - hopefully a sign of good things to come this season.