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  • Writer's pictureMichael Barritt

Warrenpoint Town 2 Ards 1 – Match Report














NIFL Championship – 03/09/22

By Phillip Bartlett



Warrenpoint on the Ball, as Ards lose out again....


The RABA were back on the road today, making the long journey south to take on Warrenpoint following their return to Championship football after dropping out of the Irish Premiership last season. Both teams have had an uneven start to the season, Warrenpoint finally getting their first win of the season last week away to Dergview. Ards had a better run out last Friday getting a hard fought 2-1 win over Ballyclare, but it was far from convincing. Those in Red and Blue travelling to Milltown today will be hoping for another positive result but a good performance would make the return journey that bit more enjoyable. The weather was awful so only the football could make our day.


Ards late late window signing Adam Salley was straight into the starting line-up, joining Ross Arthurs leading the Ards’ attack. Ross Hunter drops to the bench while DeeDee McAllister misses out through injury as goalscoring hero Eamon Scannell comes into the side. No sign of a return for either Ethan Taggart or Paddy Cafolla in the middle of the park as Ards injury list increases.


As mentioned, the weather took a real turn for the worse as the game kicked off, torrential rain and high winds made for awful playing conditions. Warrenpoint certainly coped better with the conditions early on, Ards struggling to get any meaningful possession in the opening 20 minutes. A real game of two ‘halfs’ as far as the goal scoring is concerned, Ards winning the 1st half only for Warrenpoint to complete a turn around in the opening stages of the 2nd. On the balance of play you’d have to say a draw would have been a fair result but a last-minute Ards’ equaliser, ruled out by the referee, ensured The Point took a 2-1 win along with the 3 points. It seemed a perfectly legal goal to me, but the ref must have saw something else. There were some angry words towards the officials at the end as fans showed their disappointment at a seemingly harsh decision denying Ards.


Point started on the front foot adapting to the poor conditions and doing well to hold on to the ball for long spells, Ards at times chasing their tails trying to keep their shape in get into the game. New boy Salley up top was mobile and alert, always making himself available but Ards struggled to create any meaningful chances to bring him into the game. Warrenpoint made some early inroads on the Ards goal, full back Ball going close at the back post on 4’. The ball was switched in the middle from right to left, Young went to claim and should have done so but misjudged the flight of the ball and it beat him. Benefit of the doubt to the wide man with the prevailing weather conditions. Ball found himself with the ball and plenty of space to run into but eventually sending his effort high over the bar. Early call to action for Moore but he was able to watch it over and out of danger. Ards were again on the back foot some 2 mins later when Taylor tried to see an over hit ball out for an Ards goal kick. He was under pressure and the Point man was able to get past him and cut the ball back before it went over the by-line. The ball back into the danger area was met first by a A O’Sullivan but his shot was saved at the near post and put out for corner.



Terrible playing conditions for both sides....


New man Salley got his and Ards’ first chance of the half on 12. He picked the ball up about 40 yards form goal with plenty of space in front of him to move into. He carried it towards goal and released a fierce shot from 25 yards out, he could well have hit it a bit earlier as the defender was able to get out and make a block just on the 18 yard line. First green shoots of an attack from Ards. That seemed to lift them a bit and they found themselves in decent positions again but never really threatened the goal. That changed on 32’ as Ards opened the scoring through Scannell taking a 1-0 lead. It was a really well worked goal, best attacking move of the half from either team. Jallow played a ball down the side to Salley, perfectly weighted and timed. The new Ards striker stepped on to it and held it up well, far too strong for Byrne, composing himself before picking out Scannell towards the penalty spot. Scannell met the ball perfectly and sent a looping header past Mitchell in the Point goal, Ards 1-0. We can argue if was deserved on the balance of play, but no argument that it was an excellently worked move and finish.


A few mins later Ards were ruing a chance to 2-0 up. Scannell involved once again, this time sending in a left footed freekick from the right, heading for the back post, Arthurs got something on it and it seemed destined for the back of the net but Mitchell made a brilliant save getting down low to keep it out. The second ball could have gone anywhere but luckily for Warrenpoint it fell kindly for them and they were able to clear. A bit of fortune for the keeper after such a great save but on the flip side Ards can feel hard done by after another great piece of work.



Eamon Scannell Opening the scoring....


That was the last action of the half, the ref blowing up after an additional minute was played for an early stoppage when Byrne went down with a hand to the face. Ards take a lead into the break, a chance for everyone to dry off a bit during the interval.


Both teams reluctantly returned for the 2nd half, the weather conditions no better. Neither side made any changes at the break, and Ards restarted the game.


The game was ultimately decided early in the second half as Warrenpoint scored twice within 3 minutes to turn the game around, both goals easily avoidable. The first actually came from an Ards throw-in in the Warrenpoint half. On 51’ Crane took a throw-in and it landed at full back R O’Sullivan’s feet, from there he went at Taylor, played it through his legs and collected at the far side. He then passed it to Wixted in space just outside the box, he saw Ball’s run and played him in just left of the penalty area and the wide man did the rest, finishing well sending it between Moore’s legs and into the net. Ards pegged back within 6 mins of the restart.


Point had their tails up and took the lead just 3 mins later on 54’ when A O’Sullivan had one of the easiest finishes of his career. Ards had chances to get the ball up the pitch but passed it around at the back, Moore tried to play it out to the midfield, but it was picked up by Slater and he had the whole ground open up in front of him. He ran at the Ards goal and rather unselfishly played a square ball to O’Sullivan who couldn’t miss from 6 yards out. Ards punished by trying to play out from the back and getting it all wrong. The turn-around complete with only 9 2nd half minutes played. It was nearly worse for Ards just 4 mins later as Byrne went close at the back post on 58’. R O’Sullivan’s well delivered corner was met by a sliding Byrne at the back post, but good pressure by the Ards back line meant he didn’t get a clean contact and sent it over the bar. Ards rocked and still under pressure early on by the home side.


While Ards weren’t creating too many chances of their own, they were very nearly gifted an equaliser from a Warrenpoint OG on 60’. Salley again looking dangerous down the right put in a cross just at the by-line, it caught out the retreating McKenna for Point and he nearly turned it into his own net. A sharp reaction save from Mitchell saved his blushes and preserved their slender lead. Despite being 2-1 down it took Ards until 80’ to create another chance worth talking about. By now Arthurs and TJ had left the field, being replaced by Reynolds and Brown. A bit more energy and direct running up top in the latter stages had Ards finally on the front foot.


Reynolds tried his luck from the edge of the box on 81’ bending an effort just round the far post. The keeper wouldn’t have got there but it was well wide of the mark. Positive play but the quality just lacking. At this point the travelling RABA were getting very frustrated as Warrenpoint were playing every trick in the book to waste time and rather than admonish and avoid it the ref seemed happy for it to continue, indicating that it would be added on at the end. Warrenpoint were happy to drop back and let Ards come on to them hoping to catch us out at the back as we pushed men forward. Ards went agonisingly close to equalising on two occasions, once even having the ball in the net for what looked like a perfectly good goal to me only for it to be ruled out.



New signing Adam Salley working hard up top....


On 87’ Jallow and Salley combined well and went close to grabbing that equaliser, but Mitchell made another smart save parrying Salley’s shot over the bar. It was a great break through the middle by Jallow, running at the Point back line. He spotted Salley’s supporting run out to the right and played him in, a touch to control and one to strike and it was well hit, heading for the roof of the goal, but Mitchell wasn’t to be beaten again and saw it over the bar. The best chance of an equaliser also brought with it huge controversy. As Ards pressed on they were awarded a throw-in it was taken by Scannell and played to Mullen, his ball in was met well by a fast arriving Taylor, beating the Warrenpoint defenders to the ball, and guiding the ball into the back of the net. The travelling support went crazy celebrating the equaliser, as did many of those playing in black and white today but unfortunately the referee saw something he deemed a foul and ruled the goal out. It prompted a huge dispute on the pitch as Ards believed they had scored a fine, legal goal. From my position it looked a perfectly good goal, any tussling or contact very much in keeping with what would be expected in a game of football. The ref made the call, and it was not to be over-turned so we move on.


After that episode there was only a matter of seconds to be played. True to his word the ref played an additional 6 mins of time added on although there could well have been more to make up for all the time wasted throughout the second half. The game ends 2-1 to Warrenpoint despite a spirited last 10 minutes from Ards, who didn’t give up and fought to the end. While the endeavour and spirit has never been in doubt there are questions over the quality at times as we fall to our 3rd defeat of the season.


Next, we leave league action behind as we welcome Queens to Clandeboye Park on Wednesday evening for the 1st round of the Co Antrim Shield. Ards last outing against Queens saw us condemn them to relegation from the Championship on the last day of the season following a 3-1 win at the Dub. It will be a nice distraction as we take the focus of the league however temporary. Early results suggest this could be a very long league campaign but who knows, a good cup run could be on the cards to give everyone a lift.



Starting Line-up:

Moore, Crane, Taylor, McKendry, Hall, Scannell, Murray, Calderwood, Young, Salley, Arthurs

Subs:

Craughwell, Jallow, Reynolds, Brown, Mullen, McVeigh, Hunter

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