Queens 2 v 1 Ards
Updated: Jan 30
NIFL Championship – 29/01/22
By Phillip Bartlett
Queens graduate 2:1 with a degree of class…
Ards were back on the road this week taking on bottom of the table Queens at the Dub and while on paper it could be considered an easy fixture, Queens have the edge on current form going in on the back of 3 straight wins in all competitions. Ards have only won twice in the last 12 league games, both results coming away from home, a crumb of comfort for those who want to look for it. Ards have already beaten Queens twice this season with a 5-0 aggregate score, but this one will be most important of the season with pressure building on John Bailie and his team.
New signings Donnelly, Igiehon and Lemoignan remain in the starting line up with both Jallow and Scannell brought back into the starting 11. TJ Murray will be unavailable through injury for several weeks yet.
An early goal in each half for Queens and an Ards goal, scrambled home after a missed penalty in the second half, barely tells the tale of a bizarre game that had an early kick off due to no floodlights at the Dub. Ards saw two players sent off late on for two stupid acts of aggression that sees us without these players heading into the next 3 games, further infuriating the Ards travelling fans. Queens played some great football at times, excellent passing and moving while keeping the ball on the ground and giving Ards the run around for the most part. Ards opted to use the high ball, trying to pick out the big man up top but more often that not, it led nowhere, and Queens had a relatively easy day at the back. In truth Queens troubles were mostly of their own making with the keeper on the verge of being sent off for consistent dissent but escaping with yellow after the ref got fed up. He eventually shut his mouth and we moved on.
The day was already going to be hard enough for Ards to get a result, but things got even more difficult as Queens took the lead as early as the 5th minute. It was a ridiculous goal for Ards to concede as not 45 seconds prior to it they had the first real chance of the game, through Jallow, to open the scoring. Adding to the indignity of the goal is that it was conceded on the back of an Ards throw that went astray, a simple ball over the top took 4 or 5 players out of the game. This allowed Queens Captain Ronan Young to run through one on one with the Ards keeper and he made no mistake, slotting in by the post. Queens had the better of the chances throughout the half hitting both the bar and post in a move that also forced Lemoignan into making a good save putting the ball round the post. Ards living dangerously but escaping further damage.
Ards had a couple of first half chances through Benny, he should really have done better when one on one with Brown in the Queens goal, taking far too long to get his shot away and giving the defender time to get back and make the block. Benny was involved in another top move, played in down the left by Cafolla, the big striker cut back a dangerous ball into the Queens box, but no one in red and blue had gambled forward to make an attacking run so the ball was easily cleared. Ards best chance of the game came towards the end of the half when Ferrin met a good freekick by Donnelly but his header lacked power and was easily gathered by the keeper. The ref brought the half to an end after 2 additional minutes, Queens 1 Ards 0 at the break leading to an undoubtedly tense half time team talk I’d guess.
More of the same unfortunately for Ards early in the second half with Chris Middleton doubling Queens advantage on 53’. A quick start from Queens caught Ards napping and Lemoignan in the Ards goal had no chance with the finish. Ferrin was left outnumbered at the back but still had chances to clear, but having failed to do so the ball fell kindly for Middleton who made no mistake. A real uphill task now for Ards to get anything out of this game, with the Ards management team’s forced they responded on 57’ with a double sub seeing O’Hare and Tully replacing McAllister and Ferrin.
Ards did manage to grab a goal getting themselves back into the game, this time on the back of a disputed penalty. The ref had no hesitation and pointed to the spot, but there were loud protestations by Queens. With the spot kick given Tully grabbed the ball off Igiehon, taking the responsibility for the spot kick, and got the bit of luck that Ards have desperately been missing. His penalty was initially saved by Brown in the Queens goal, but the second ball fell kindly, and Tully was eventually able to force it over the line on 61’. With the score at 2-1 there was genuine hope in the crowd that Ards could kick on and complete the comeback, but in truth from then on Queens has the better chances to kill the game off than for Ards had to equalise.
Ards didn’t give up with Tully trying to kick the team on following is first goal for Ards. On 65’, high on confidence, Tully picked the ball up about 35 yards out from goal, carried it in and hit a shot from distance. It was well hit but didn’t really trouble the keeper. Much of Ards efforts in the second half were like that, good build up, showing signs of putting something together, but the final ball always too easy and either cleared by the defenders or gathered by the keeper to kill the attack.
On 88’ minutes Ards last throw of the dice came with a triple sub seeing the attacking trio of McCurry, Arthurs and Reynolds brought on to replace Jallow, Young and Scannell. Ards at one point had 5 strikers on the pitch but that lasted for only 1 minute as Igiehon saw red for a clash with the Queens keeper on the stroke of 90’, Ards trailing 2-1 and now down to 10 men, the game was done as a contest, but the action was far from over. Ards lack of discipline game back to haunt them on 90=5’ as Crane also saw red for a reckless tackle in the left back position, Ards were now down to 9 men and the game ending in a farce in the eyes of those fans that had made the trip. After 7 mins time added on the ref finally brought the game to an end, there was jubilation from the Queens team and bench as that’s now 4 straight wins in a row.
The travelling support vented their frustrations at the end of the game, the disappointment evident to see. We all know the players we have out there are much better than the performances being put in of late. The last number of months have been in stark contrast to the opening months of the season where it looked like a straight battle between Ards and Newry for the top spot. Following this weekends results Ards have now slipped into the bottom 6, the ‘relegation group’, some 16 points behind league leaders Newry.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing, Ards are currently without a manager as following the Queens defeat John Bailie has stepped down from his role. The writing may well have been on the wall for some time now but there were some that were hopefully that he could turn it around but that’s not been the case. A run of results that saw Ards collect only 9 points out of a possible 42 signals the end of his reign.
Speculation will be rife about who will come in to replace JB with a couple of prominent names already in the mix. There is no doubt that whoever comes in will have a squad capable of going on a good run. At this stage even the most optimistic of Ards fans would probably concede that promotion, or even a playoff spot, is beyond us, but the hope is that a new man in could lift the players and bring a bit of enjoyment back to those in the stands. There’s a great team in there, it would be good to see them revert to the kind of performance, and results we saw earlier in the season.
Ards can say goodbye to league action for a time, as fortune or fate or whatever, has given us another crack to win the Irish cup (a successful appeal by Dundela notwithstanding), as we travel to Newry next Friday evening in the 2nd round.
Lemoignan, Crane, McGovern, Ferrin, Young, Scannell, Cafolla, Donnelly, DD McAllister, Igiehon, Jallow
Arthurs, O’Hare, Tully, Reynolds, McCurry
Subs not used: