By Jana McCabe
As the final game of the regular season arrived, it was still all to play for at the bottom of the table. All Ards needed to secure a place in the Relegation playoffs was a point or for Newry not to better their goal difference by five. Ards had to make a late change to the starting line up as Callum Byers was injured in the warm-up.
In the opening minutes of the first half striker Michael McLellan's shot from range was well saved. Then, Matthew Lynch’s freekick was wide of the right hand post in the twelfth minute.
However Ards opened the scoring in the twenty second minute. Eamon McAllister’s corner resulted in Damien McNulty’s header deflecting out to give Ards another corner. Then, after a scramble, the ball fell to sixteen-year-old debutant Jonah Heron at the edge of the box with his strike deflecting into the back of the net to make it 1-0.
Then good work between Eoghan McCawl and Josh Kelly gave Kelly a goal scoring opportunity, but his strike was saved by the Warrenpoint stopper Thompson. As the half drew to a close, Phillip Donnelly’s looping corner was well saved by Sam Johnston. The first half ended 1-0 with it being 0-1 at the Newry Showgrounds meaning that, as it stood, Newry would automatically be going down.
It didn’t take long for Warrenpoint to level the game after the restart when Donnelly’s strike found the back of the net to the disgust of the Red and Blue Army who claimed that the strike was from an offside position. 1-1 in the fifty fourth minute.
Then McLellan’s header was denied by Jared Thompson as Ards looked to retake the lead. In the sixty seventy minute another corner from McAllister resulted in a scramble in the box with Thompson able to collect the ball and clear the danger.
Danny Wallace’s strong header was then stopped by Sam Johnston in the seventy second minute. At the other end Kelly’s powerful strike made Thompson deflect the ball out to give Ards another corner.
In the eighty first minute the energetic Gareth Tommons was unable to play on leaving Ards with ten men on the field. Ards then did well to prevent the home side from having many chances in the final minutes with their only chance falling to Ciaran O’Connor but his strike curled over the bar. The game ended 1-1.
A point for Ards and a victory for Dungannon meant it will be Newry who finish last and are automatically relegated. While Ards's fate is still not decided with a playoff against Carrick FC scheduled for Friday and Monday nights.
XI: Johnston, Kerr, McAleenan, McNulty, Taylor, E McAllister, J Kelly, Tommons, McCawl, Heron and McLellan.
Used Subs: Bennett, Shearer and Henderson
Unused Subs: Davidson and M Kelly