NIFL Championship – 26/11/22
By Phillip Bartlett
Salley on Point as Ards secure vital win…
After claiming their first draw of the season in a hard-fought battle against Ballyclare last time out, Ards will be looking to get back to winning ways on the road to Milltown this afternoon. It was a disappointing trip earlier in the season as Warrenpoint escaped with a 2-1 win, Ards feeling hard done by with a last-minute equaliser being inexplicably disallowed by the referee. 4th vs 5th in this one, 3 points the difference, Ards would need a very convincing win to leapfrog their opponents in the league. Warrenpoint had a difficult start to the season but have found some form of late, winning 4 out of the last 7, only losing once in that same period, so another tough game for the RABA expected today.
Matthew Tipton has been fortunate enough of late to be able to name a very settled side with little to no enforced absences but today there were some changes due to suspensions and illness throughout the squad. TJ Murray was out having been red carded against Ballyclare, Johnny Taylor was missing through illness and the ever-present Cricky Crane missed out due to a previously scheduled engagement. There were starts today for Ben Mullen and Callum McVeigh across the back while Daniel Reynolds started in an attacking role alongside Ross Hunter and Adam Salley. Ards were left with 6 players on the bench with reserve players Jay Boyd and Jacob Duckett called up to the senior squad for this one. The captains Armband was in the very capable hands of Paddy Cafolla in TJs absence.
Daniel Reynolds Bundles the ball into the net to bring Ards level
A very dramatic match today with lots of action and points for discussion that ultimately went in Ards favour as we ran out 4-1 winners on what was a terrible day for playing football. What looked like being a close and even contest throughout the first half, took a very unusual turn during a 2-minute spell as Warrenpoint imploded receiving 3 red cards to completely change the context of the game. On field dismissals for Point captain Francis McCaffrey and Ryan Swan were quickly followed by the off-field dismissal of one of the back-room staff for their overzealous protestations. The score was all square at the break as Swan and Reynolds traded goals, but the mood had changed and Ards were firmly in the driving seat when the game resumed. It didn’t go all Ards way in the second half, as many predicted it would, but in the end 3 second half goals were enough for Ards to put the game to bed and ensure we took the 3 points with us on the long journey home. Jallow came on to put Ards into the lead and Adam Salley made sure of the win with a 3-minute brace. 4-1 the final score.
Terrible conditions for football at Milltown today as the high winds at kick off were quickly joined by heavy rain for the majority for the first half. It made for an unsure start as neither side could really hold onto the ball in the early stages. Ards had the better of what chances there were early on, Salley the first to test Mitchell in the Point goal, as his well hit strike from distance was palmed away to safety. Ards followed that up from the corner, Cafolla looking to attack the near post with the delivery. Greg Hall was on the same page and threw himself at the ball but was just short and the ball was quickly cleared while Hall himself ended up in the back of the net. While Warrenpoint had their moments they had failed to trouble Moore in the Ards goal until, almost predictably, Ards went behind as Ryan Swan benefited from a Luke Walsh flick on. The Point man had loads of time and space to lash the ball across goal and beyond Moore, nothing the Ards #1 could do on this occasion to prevent Warrenpoint from opening the score.
Captain for the day Cafolla springing into action in the middle of the park
Ards hit back quickly getting the equaliser on 27’, Daniel Reynolds eventually converting from close range. Ards had looked destined to not score as Mitchell was in inspired form, making two unbelievable saves from Salley before the eventual goal came. An initial Adam Salley freekick some 35yards from goal with the wind at this back, was blocked by the wall but the ref deemed it had moved before the ball was struck and awarded another set piece this time a bit closer to goal. Salley again stepped up to hit and hit he did as it was heading straight into the bottom corner of the net. The Ards fans were already celebrating the goal, but Mitchell managed to get a hand on it low down to his left and somehow direct it onto the cross bar and away. Ards recycled the ball and were rewarded with a penalty, the referee seeing an infraction in the box. Again, Mitchell was unbeatable making another top save from Salley, this time from the penalty spot. The goal eventually came from that resulting corner, Cafolla played it into the box, it was flicked on to the back post where Hunter headed it back into the danger area picking out Reynolds in the perfect spot to tap into an unguarded net. All square after 27 minutes, a well-deserved equaliser.
Ards were a couple of layers of paint away from taking a lead in the first half, Adam Salley causing more problems with his dead-ball work. Another freekick about 25ys from goal on 34’, excellent hit around the wall, destined for the back of the net from my standpoint but it was just the wrong side of the post with Mitchell beat. That was the last goal mouth action but there was plenty of time for the game to turn heavily in Ards favour as Warrenpoint lost their heads. Captain McCaffrey was the first to go, shown a straight red presumably for foul and abusive language on 42’. It was a disappointing scene as the referee gave him every opportunity to remove himself from the situation, but he continued to berate the official and was eventually shown a red card for whatever he might have said. Down to 10 men Warrenpoint were on the attack as Ryan Swan, who had been one of Points most influential attacking players, scythed down Paddy Cafolla right on the by-line and was shown a second yellow of the game on 44’. An unnecessary tackle as Ards were going nowhere, but again giving the ref no real choice. It did seem that ref initially forgot that Swan had already been cautioned earlier in the piece but eventually the red card was pulled, and Swan was off for an early bath. A silly challenge to make at the best of times, but almost criminal when already operating on a caution. Warrenpoint now down to 9 men and with it all to do in the second half.
The red cards weren’t finished there as shortly after Swan was given his marching orders a member of the Point backroom staff was also dismissed for his protestations against the cards shown. When things had settled down, we had 2 mins left in the first 45 and after an additional minute of time added on the ref blew the whistle for the interval. A decent first half, quite tight and a close contest for the most part, turned on its head however just 2 mins before the break. An interesting half time team talk in the Warrenpoint changing room during half time I’ll bet.
The teams were back out for the second half, no changes for either team at the break and a bit of improvement in the weather as Ards got the game going again.
Ards resumed the game with a 2-man advantage but for the first 20 odd minutes you wouldn’t have known it. They really struggled to figure out how to play against the 9 men and Warrenpoint proved to be more dangerous early on. Ards were always looking to play high balls into the box which proved really easy for the Point back line to defend. It took Ards close to 10 mins to get their first effort on target as Salley looked to add to his tally for the season with a fine shot on goal. Young played the striker in, Salley held it up well, managed to turn his man and get a shot off. It was heading for the top corner, but Mitchell was able to cover the ground and make the save.
Ethan Taggart keeping things ticking for Ards in the middle of the park
Despite being up against it Warrenpoint continued to look for chances to attack and get behind the Ards defence and managed to do so on several occasions, Luke Walsh with the best of the chances with his header going just wide of the post on 59'. A free header in the box, he’ll be disappointed not to have scored and given Point a very unexpected lead. Ards continued to struggle to adapt to playing against Warrenpoint’s reduced numbers, seeming to try and almost force the game while putting themselves under undue pressure. This was no more evident when Moore send a goal kick straight out of play about 40 yards up the pitch, the keeper trying to lift the tempo while they really needed to calm down and be patient. Ards looked to the subs bench on 70’ as something had to change. Arthurs and Jallow were brought in, replacing Calum McVeigh and goal scorer Daniel Reynolds.
Jallow was immediately into the action, getting the ball down and running at the Warrenpoint backline, adding an additional threat wide right and really stretching the Warrenpoint defence. On 76’ Jallow got his reward grabbing a second goal for Ards to give us the lead for the first time in the game. It was a shot-come-cross that ended up in the back of the net, Mitchell having left his near post hoping to intercept the cross and getting caught out. They all count and up until that moment we looked unlikely to get that second goal, so it was very well received by the travelling RABA. The substitutions doing the business for Ards finally breaching that solid Point back line.
The second goal for Ards was key to the win as that meant Warrenpoint had to gamble and try to lift it higher up the pitch, making a triple substitution to try and do just that. It created more space for Ards in their attacking third and Adam Salley took full advantage scoring his first goal of the game on 80’ with a well hit strike high into the net. Jallow again involved and making a difference wide on the right, Warrenpoint unable to deal with the pacey winger. He made himself some room and fired in a dangerous cross, low and hard into the box. The cross was only half cleared, the second ball falling to Salley, and he made no mistake with the finish to extend Ards lead with just 10 mins to go.
Salley put the game beyond Warrenpoint just 3 mins later with a fantastic solo goal, his second and Ards fourth of the game. The Ards’ #25 picked the ball up in the middle of the park and ran at the defence, he went on to beat 2 or 3 challenges before finishing brilliantly, hammering the ball past Mitchell and into the back of the net. A great goal to give Ards an unassailable 4-1 lead with only 6 odd minutes left to play. It would be remiss of me not to highlight Ross Arthurs involvement in this goal, while it was made and finished by Salley, Arthurs’ running off the ball opened up the space for Salley to move into, stretching the defence and making the gaps. Great forward play by Arthurs helping his mate off the ball.
Salley off to celebrate his second, and Ards fourth goal of the game
The ref played less than a minute of time added on before bringing the game to an end, Ards leaving Milltown with a 4-1 win and 3 points. Comfortable enough in the end but it was hard come by with the introduction of Jallow ultimately the key to the win as he grabbed himself a goal and an assist through some excellent wing play. The two red cards obviously changed the direction of the game but on reflection I don’t think Warrenpoint can have case for complaint with any of the decisions.
Next up for Ards is a home fixture as Institute make the long trek from the Northwest to Clandeboye Park next weekend. Ards were on the end of a 2-0 defeat back in October when we visited the Brandywell. We’ll be hoping to turn the tables while hopefully some of those missing in action today will be able to return the squad for that one.
Moore, McVeigh, Mullen, Hall, Young, Cafolla, Taggart, Scannell, Hunter, Salley, Reynolds
McKendry, Arthurs, Jallow, Calderwood, Boyd, Duckett