By Jana McCabe
A trip to the National stadium always proves interesting for Ards, from a great David McAllister goal last season to send Ards into the semi final of the County Antrim Shield to a poor performance in the Intermediate Cup Final in 2016, games here always get your heart racing. Only one change to the Tuesday starters as Sam Johnston rejoined the starting team as Ards FC faced the current league leaders.
Linfield pushed for an early goal with a shot from Daniel Kearns being stopped by Sam Johnston. In the fourteenth minute David McAllister’s great run down the wing gave Josh Kelly a goal scoring opportunity but the ball was saved by Linfield stopper Roy Carroll.
A far left ball from Joel Cooper to Matthew Clarke gave him a great chance but a fine save from Johnston kept the game goalless in twentieth minute. Josh Kelly then made an important clearance to deny Linfield a clear shooting opportunity in the twenty fourth minute as Linfield continued to push.
In the twenty ninth minute a Cooper run and pass to Andrew Waterworth saw his shot look goalbound but Jonny Frazer came to the rescue and made a crucial clearance off the line.
After that important clearance Ards gained momentum with David McAllister getting into a great position but his strong shot was hit over by the Linfield stopper. Then in the thirty third minute Kyle Cherry’s curling shot from outside the box was wide of the left hand post.
However in the last five minutes of the half Linfield dominated with Johnston pulling off multiple crucial saves including saving Christopher Casment’s strong free kick and Niall Quinn’s curling corner. The half ended goalless.
Early on in the second half Johnny Taylor was booked. In the sixty first minute Quinn’s corner was well saved by Johnston. However Johnston picked up an injury but bravely played on.
In the sixty fourth minute a skilful Frazer ball from the far right was wasted when no one was able to control it. A counter attack saw Michael O'Connor’s shot well saved by the busy Johnston.
In the seventh ninth minute Kyle Cherry’s header was over as Ards looked to sneak a goal. They continued to press with David McAllister’s great run and unselfish pass nearly paying off but Mark Kelly slipped and the ball was cleared in the eighty fifth minute. In the same minute a skilful pass from Casement to Waterworth saw his strong shot crashing off the bar.
Arguably Ards should have snatched all three points in the eighty ninth minute when good team work between Josh Kelly, substitute Michael McLellan and Cherry, but Cherry’s close range header sailed over the bar to the gasps of the Red and Blue Army. In injury time both sides continued to push with Taylor producing a great header to clear a late goalscoring opportunity with the game ending scoreless.
A superb point for Ards. After the game chants of ‘Newtownards’ echoed round the arena with players and staff joining in the celebrations, with Red and Blue Army scarves held high. Ards attentions will turn to the home clash with Coleraine in two weeks. Hopefully similar celebrations will occur then.
Starting 11: Sam Johnston, Michael Kerr, Callum Byers, Jonny Taylor, Jonny Frazer, Kyle Cherry, Mark Kelly, David McAllister, Josh Kelly, Craig McClean and Kym Nelson.
Used: Gareth Tommons (Kym Nelson), Eamon McAllister (Jonny Frazer) and Michael McLellan (Mark Kelly).
Unused: Jason Mooney, Jonah Mitchell, Marc McKenna and Adam McAleenan