Still no change at the top of the Hutchinson Tiles Winter League although champions Glebe Rangers Old Boys could only take a point from their game with Hazelbank.
Berthas, West Bann Athletic and Portrush Old Boys all recorded big wins in their games against The Taverners, Balnamore and Coleraine Olympic respectively. Finn McCools took the points by the odd goal in five against FC Crusaders, while The Villagers were comfortable victors over Brook Street.
All teams in all games observed a minutes silence before the start of the game to remember the late Alan Hutchinson.
Hazelbank 2 Glebe Rangers OB 2
Hazelbank and Glebe Rangers Old Boys played out an entertaining draw at Rugby Avenue.
The Old Boys made a bright start to the game with Stephen Elder proving dangerous down the right-hand side. He almost got in on goal in the opening minutes, but Crawford was out quickly to deny him.
Despite dominating possession the visitors were struggling to break down a resolute home rearguard and it was them who edged in front. Wayne Davidson latched on to a mistake at the back before teeing up James Penny who curled home a delightful shot.
Back came Glebe with Elder and McFetridge both going close to drawing the sides level, while at the other end Ciaran Wilson almost gave his side a two-goal cushion at the break but he was denied by the legs of Danny Allen.
The second half continued in the same vein with the Glebe having more of the ball without really creating too many problems. It took the introduction of Paul Gaston to get them firing.
He got on the end of Lee Kyle’s free kick to nod the teams level with 15 minutes to go.
Billy McCurdy almost put his side in front shortly after as he found space at the edge of the box, but his powerful shot was held by Crawford.
It was Hazelbank though who scored again as Colin McClarty latched on to a bit of indecision between Allen and Bellngham to slot the ball in to an empty net.
It looked as though Stevie Friel’s side have recorded their fourth win on the bounce but with the last kick of the game up popped Gaston to hook the ball home from a tight angle despite Crawford’s best efforts.
Man of the Match: Johnny McIlreavy (Hazelbank)
Berthas FC 6 The Taverners 1
The away side took the lead in this one when a mistake at the back allowed Shane McKee the chance to race into the box to cut the ball back from the byline and find Ryan McKee who had the simple task of tapping into an empty net.
Berthas weren’t behind very long when Caldwell put Stewart clean through and the striker fired low into the corner of the net. Berthas nearly took the lead moments later but Workman made a smart stop to deny Hanna. It took the home team 15 minutes of the second half to take the lead when The Taverners failed to deal with Patterson’s long throw, the ball dropping on the edge of the area for Biggart who hammered home.
The hosts increased their lead two minutes later when smart play in the midfield released Hanna, he beat his man before squaring to Stewart who found the onion bag with a low strike. Taverners were struggling to create much going forward and fell further behind when Caldwell rose highest to head home another Patterson long throw.
Berthas grabbed their fifth when McLaughlin slipped in Stewart and the striker made no mistake for his hat-trick. Number six wasn’t far away either when good play from Drake and McLaughlin again found Stewart in space, he cut the ball back for Caldwell who passed the ball into the net for his second of the game. Man of the Match: Ciaran Gaile (Berthas FC)
West Bann Athletic 7 Balnamore FC 1
West Bann Athletic went into this game against Balnamore determined to bounce back from their defeat in the previous game and also to keep in touch with teams around them going into the second half of the season.
Both teams started the game brightly and Balnamore thought they should have had a penalty in the opening 10 minutes however a goal kick was all that was awarded to the home team. WBA then produced a magical half hour of football that produced six goals, every one of them well made and finished.
WBA talisman Lee Nevin bagged himself another four goals, which takes his haul for the season in all competitions to an impressive 24 goals. Nevin also provided the assist for strike partner Phil Stevenson and young Luke Bacon also finished well after a goalmouth scramble which saw WBA go into the break six goals to the good.
Balnamore came out determined to get themselves on the score sheet in the second half throwing more players forward but WBA defended well as a team and continued to press for goals. WBA captain Aaron McLelland made it 7-0 to the home team finding the top corner on the hour. Balnamore scored a late consolation goal from the penalty spot with Nicky Tweed making no mistake chalking up league goal number 15 for himself into the bargain and make it 7-1 at the final whistle. Man of the Match: Lee Nevin (WBA FC)
Coleraine Olympic 1 Portrush Old Boys 8
This game didn’t take long to get started as Portrush opened the scoring on three minutes from a clever finish from DD Mc Clelland. The same man scored again from close range one minute later. It was proving difficult for the Olympic to contain the stem of attacks from Portrush, as Aidy McLaughlin and Dave Parsons added to the scoring before half time.
The second half mirrored the first in most aspects, with Portrush scoring another four goals. Dave Parsons added his second, as well as a rare headed effort from Daryl Wills. McClelland completed his hat-trick, and finished another strong header to make his tally four for the game. Olympic to their credit did create more chances of their own, and were rewarded with a penalty on 88 minutes, which Phil Patterson cracked home.
FC Windyhall 2 Ballyrashane FC 3
This match between two teams both eager for 3 points had a real derby feel from the off. Ballyrashane started well and within 30 seconds veteran Davey Campbell had his first shot on goal from distance but was denied by Newman in the FC Windyhall goal.
Windyhall played well and looked the most Likely to score and despite good saves from the elder of the two Newmans in the Ballyrashane goal Windyhall struck first in the 24th minute with a good strike from A Wilson. Ballyrashane picked themselves up Lee Gray firing a great chance from a number of yards out just over the bar after great play from Doey.
Ballyrashane got off to a flyer after the break with Neil’s through ball finding Mark Collins who fired home with a great strike. Ballyrashane weren’t done there great play by the in-form Dylan Neil carved open the defence numerous times and he was eventually awarded a penalty.
The striker picked himself up and slotted the spot kick into the bottom corner. Ballyrashane continued to press on with Alan freeman marshalling, not just the back four but the whole team to great affect. Unfortunately a miscued clearance from William Crawford found the back of the Ballyrashane goal and tied the match giving Windyhall a lifeline.
They started to come into the game with some good passing, but Ballyrashane made their move and brought on young Jack Gray who would turn out to be the hero. Neil again provided an excellent through ball and the young striker stayed composed and finished at the near post.
This sealed the points in this derby game for a Ballyrashane team who have played good football this year at times and haven’t always got there reward. Man of the Match: Alan Freeman (Ballyrashane)
Finn McCools 3 FC Crusaders 2
This was a strange game for Finns as FC Crusaders only started the game with nine men. FC Crusaders frustrated Finns for long periods of the game sitting in and hitting on the break. It took until the 40th minute for the deadlock to be broken as Kyle Parke whipped in a delightful corner under the crossbar which was punched into his own net by the Crusaders keeper under extreme pressure. Crusaders had their own chances in the first half but they couldn’t find a breakthrough.
Into the second half and a break down the right by Crusaders and a lovely ball was whipped in for the oncoming attacker to slot home leaving Finns keeper no chance.
Finns managed to take the lead again midway through the second half as Crusaders keeper misjudged the flight of the ball and handed a soft goal to Kyle Parke who couldn’t miss from one yard out.
Again Crusaders pegged back Finns with a lovely floated free kick which was forced home from close range, but with five minutes remaining and the game evenly poised David Cochrane produced the winner for Finns as he cut in from the right and hit a left foot strike which nestled in the top corner of the goal.
Credit must go the Crusaders for their battling performance as at times you wouldn’t have known they had only nine men for the duration of this match.