NIFL Championship – 30/04/22
By Phillip Bartlett
Ards fans ‘Boyd’ by final day turn around
Ards last match of a tumultuous season sees them again involved in an important match to decide the lower league positions and ultimately who will not feature in the NIFL Championship next season. Seeing Ards get well beaten by Knockbreda last week, coupled with our head-to-head results from earlier in the season, Queens would have gone into this one confident of getting the result they needed and hoping that things fell kindly for them in other areas.
Ards made several changes to the team that was put out against Knockbreda, but it was a strong side, Ards taking these last two games very seriously. The last outing for the current crop of players to give the fans something to cheer about, those moments have unfortunately been few and far between in the last handful of months. Both fullbacks were changed for this one with Young and Dinu at right and left back respectively. TJ Murray was back in the starting eleven and reclaimed the captains armband from Cafolla who certainly showed he deserved the honour in the games when he captained the side.
Queens dominated the first half of the game taking a 2-1 lead into the break having nearly been gifted both goals by an Ards team that seemed really unsure at the back. Ards managed to limit the damage with a fine finish by young Jay Boyd, his first goal for the senior team, giving them hope for the second half. Queens desperately needed the win and it appeared from the side-lines that they would try and hold what they already had and see it out despite having Ards well on the ropes in the first half. More of the same could well have seen them win the day and grab that elusive 11th spot with Knockbreda losing out to Institute. They opened the door for Ards and credit to the team and players, they took full advantage coming back to win the second half 2-0, and the game 3-2 overall.
Ards were given a few warnings before Queens inevitably took the lead on 13’, unlucky for us indeed. It was an acrobatic overhead effort from the Queens number 9 Atrach after the ball was played in from the Ards right. It caught out a lot of those in the box that he took it that early and it floated agonisingly into the far corner of the goal as Bam could only watch it go past. Sloppy defending costing us again. It could have and probably should have been 2-0 only 4 mins later when Queens played their way through again. Acres of space for the Queens man, with only Bam to beat, but the Ards keeper was in a great position and made the save from distance. One you’d argue he should save being that far out, but one you’d also say should have been stopped long before getting into to a shooting position.
That effort must have spurred Ards on as only 60 seconds later Deccy Brown was picking the ball out of his net after Jay Boyd grabbed and equaliser. A well-deserved goal for the young man who had looked bright all game, found himself plenty of room and followed up with a neat finish from the right-hand side of the box, keeper no chance. It was short lived joy for the travelling Red and Blue Army as once again Ards were making things difficult for themselves. Queens able to waltz through the backline at will, on this occasion Sam Dinu used his pace and was able to get back in and make a great tackle.
On 31’ mins Queens once again took the lead through McIlory, from an Ards throw in about 40 yards from our own goal. The ball in from the throw was quickly intercepted, two or three quick passes, ball into McIlroy shot on goal 2-1 Queens. I’m not really sure how we lost a goal from our dead ball, another example of how easy Queens were getting through the lines and in front of our goal. That was all the goalscoring action before the break, the ref blew up after 1 min of time added on, Queens leading 2-1.
Ards made a change at the break with DeeDee McAllister being replaced by Ross Arthurs. Queens kick off and we’re underway again, fearing the worst after that first half, but of course, football, it’s a funny old game (that saying will probably catch on in years to come).
Within 2 mins of the restart Boyd was back in the thick of it, picking the ball up inside the box and taking aim at goal hoping to catch the Queens keeper cold after the restart. The shot was well struck but just a bit high and goes over the bar. Positive start to the half. Both sides were creating chances in this half, Ards showing a lot more attacking flair than they did in the first. Dinu creates a chance on the left, sending the ball into the back post. Arthurs was in challenging, but Brown does well to come and collect, taking the pressure off his side.
Ards again creating chances but failing to take them, story of our season, and on 72’ it looked like Queens were going to extend their lead. They did well down the left managing to flash a ball across the Ards goal, the Queens forward was agonisingly close, any touch and it probably would have gone in, but to Ards relief he couldn’t reach it and we were able to clear. Shortly after that near miss the Ards fans and players were again celebrating on 74’ as Eamon Scannell grabbed a brilliantly hit equaliser, you’ll have to catch this one on the highlights as I doubt I could do it justice here. Left of the 18yd box played in by Cafolla, left foot hit, smashed into the far right-hand top corner of the goal. Brown in the Queens goal stood and watched it fly in, just like the rest of us. Excellent hit, excellent goal, 2-2 and Ards on the up.
With 15 mins to go there was plenty of time left for a winner and one of the most ridiculous red cards I’ve seen in a long time. Ards buoyed by the equaliser went in search of a winner and on 82’ Calvin McCurry popped up in the middle of the box to score from a brilliantly delivered Eamon Scannell corner. Great movement by the young striker to get himself the bit of space needed, connecting well with his header and Brown had no chance. Ards had turned it around, coming back twice from behind, something we haven’t seen in quite some time and based on the second half performance, something we definitely deserved. Queens didn’t give up after conceding the 3rd and on 88’ were nearly back level but for a great stop by Bam at his near post.
The referee played 3 mins of time added on, Queens obviously under pressure to get back in the game, and that pressure boiled over with Brown being shown a straight red for kicking out at Scannell on 90+3. Both Brown and Scannell were closing down the ball, Brown favourite to win it, Scannell went to ground to try and put him off and block the clearance but catches the keeper. Brown reacts angrily, clearly kicking out giving the ref no choice but to send him off. Ex Ards keeper Danny Devine got a 15 second cameo, having been subbed on to replace the ejected Brown, he took the freekick and the ref blew up the game bringing the 2021-2022 season to a close.
That’s that, last one for this season. Congratulations to Newry who won promotion to the big league, there was real belief at the start of the season that we’d be there to push them all the way but sometimes football is just like that. Preparations will be well underway now for the start of next season, which will come round in no time. Already can’t wait to be back.
Neeson, Young, Crane, Calderwood, Dinu, McAllister(45), Cafolla, Murray, Boyd(77), Scannell, Reynolds(68)
Lemoignan, McGovern, McGrandles, Bavelock(77), Arthurs(45), Thompson, McCurry(68)