NIFL Championship – 11/12/21
Titanic struggle for Ards as Welders seal the win
Report by Phillip Bartlett
A bit closer to home for Ards fans to travel as the extended run of away fixtures continues, and a first match at the new home of H&W Welders at Blanchflower Park, having reversed the fixture earlier in the season to facilitate the new build. With it being so tight throughout the whole Championship table every game is as important as the last but with so many ex-Ards men involved with the Welders this one took on a little more significance.
An enforced change following TJ Murrays’ sending off last week sees McGrandles come into the middle of the park and Crane is preferred to Dinu at right back. McCurry and O’Kane were back on the bench for Ards.
The home side ran out 2-1 winners despite a late push by Ards to force an equaliser. Two down early in the second half, an attacking triple substitution and a more aggressive change to the formation gave us a chance but they had left themselves too much to do with two very soft goals conceded and the Welders were able to see the game out.
Once again DD McAllister was bright down the left asking questions of the Welders back line, but it was from the opposite side where Ards got the first chance of the game, Jallow showing great pace to get a yard on his man and fire a low cross towards the near post. Reynolds timed his run well and met the ball but lifted it just over the bar. Shortly after Nelson had a double effort on goal seeing both efforts blocked by some desperate defending. A low hit corner from DD found Nelson in space in the box, his touch and hit was smothered out and the second ball ran back to Nelson who again saw his effort blocked and put out for another corner. There was a heart stopping moment from McCauley in the Welders goal when he made a mess of a DD McAllister corner, a seemingly simple catch slipping through his hands. The Welders were able to clear at the back post and breath heavy sigh of relief.
Bam was called into action several times in the first half making a couple of top saves from Darren Murray but he could do nothing to stop the opening goal which was scored by ex-Ard’s midfielder Scott Davidson. A low cross from the right beat both the Ards defender and Welder’s attacker challenging in the box, the ball rolled perfectly into Davidsons’s path, and he made no mistake with the finish at the near post. A soft goal to concede as Ards had chances to clear the danger during the build up but failed to do so. A very similar pattern to a lot of recent games and while Ards weren’t quite as dominant as in previous matches, on the balance of play the lead was very much against the run of play.
It was a terrible start to the second half with the Welders doubling their lead within 3 minutes of the restart. Again, Welders finding joy down the Ards left hand side, Henry probably couldn’t believe the amount of space he was in, he picked the ball up, ran at goal and finished at the near post. Bam had been anticipating a cutback or cross but Henry remained composed and finished well. Another very soft goal that could easily have been avoided. Ards had to make changes and on 58’ there was a triple substitution and a formation change that saw us go with 3 up top. Arthurs came on and straight away was giving us options further up the park, holding the ball up well and bringing others in to play. On 78’ Ards were back in the game with Cafolla finding the far corner of the net. It was a great finish, after an excellent first touch and sharp turn in the box, giving himself the space needed to find the back of the net. Having missed an earlier chance to pull a goal back it was no more than deserved. Ards continued to press for an equaliser, while Welders tried all the tricks in the book to waste time, but it never came and after 4 mins of time added on the ref blew the final whistle.
Another disappointing performance and result from a team that showed so much promise at the start of the season and have now only picked up 5 points in our last 8 league games. That result, coupled with the other ties played over this weekend, sees Ards drop to 6th in the table. It’s still very tight just off the top spot with only 2 points separating 2nd and 6th, and there is still a long way to go with plenty of twists and turns to go.
One final game on the road to contend with before a return to a home fixture as Ards travel to Dixon Park to take on Ballyclare Comrades. The Comrades currently sit in 8th place having not won in 8 games and only picking up 2 points in that spell.
Neeson, Crane, McGovern, Ferrin, Young, Jallow, Cafolla, McGrandles, Nelson, DD McAllister, Reynolds
McCurry, Scannell, Arthurs
Subs not used:
Carry, Calderwood, E McAllister, O’Kane