Leaders win again

Back to league action this week and it’s as you were at the top of the Hutchinson Tiles Winter League with Glebe Rangers Old Boys, Macosquin Village and Mountview all recording comfortable victories to keep up their quest for the title.

Elsewhere there were wins for Balnamore, FC Macosquin, West Bann Athletic, Berthas and The Taverners.

This week sees the first round of the Knockout Cup take place with eight ties up for contest. Game of the round is probably in Castlerock with Berthas FC facing off against Balnamore FC. The home team have been in indifferent form all season so the away side will start off as slight favourites in this one. West Bann face a tricky trip to Ballymoney to face The Taverners while Macosquin Village won’t get it easy against away to Hillview FC. There should also be progress for Mountview, The Villagers, Glebe Rangers, Dunaghy and Hazelbank but anything can happen when it comes to Cup football.

The March monthly meeting will take place this coming Monday, the 12th, in The Railways Arms, Coleraine.

Glebe Rangers Old Boys 2 Brook Street 0

Despite playing against the conditions Glebe made a positive start with Wilmont to the fore in early sojourns down the left flank. Ivan Elder, fulfilling the right wing role, was looking dangerous and from his cross Wilmont failed to connect properly. Lee Kyle was next to join in the attack and his cross saw Steele head goal-wards but McAlister gathered.

The pattern of play continued towards Brook Street’s goal as the half progressed but it was the away side who had possibly the best opening when Allen saved superbly from Boreland’s fierce drive to ensure the teams went in level at half-time.

Glebe kicked off the second half on the attack and from Allen’s long clearance Steele nodded over McAlister to give the home side the lead.

With the wind at their backs the Old Boys sought to increase their advantage but they failed to seriously trouble McAlister despite numerous attempts on goal.

Friel also stood out for the away side as he marshalled his troops superbly and Brook Street, taking confidence from this, began to launch a few attacking sorties of their own. It was left to Steele to notch the decisive strike when he hooked home from a DJ McBride corner. Man of the Match: James Steele (Glebe Rangers Old Boys)

Macosquin Village 5 Finn McCools 1

Macosquin continued their fine run of victories in the league with a great performance on a windy day at Ballysally. The home side took the lead after only five minutes when McNeill’s cross was misjudged by Henderson in the McCools goal, allowing Lee Biggart to tap home. Macosquin doubled the lead only three minutes into the second half when Biggart smashed home.

Two became three only a minute later when Biggart’s effort was handled in the area by McAfee and the striker completed his hat-trick with a well taken penalty.

The home side continued to pressure the Finns defence and grabbed a fourth when Biggart again drilled the ball into the bottom corner with his fourth of the day. With the points seemingly secured Macosquin took there foot of the pedal and allowing Finns some possession, which resulted in McAfee scoring a consolation. Substitute Laverty then made it five for Macosquin, beating the offside trap following Biggart’s header. Man of the Match: Lee Biggart (MVFC)

Hazelbank FC 1 Mountview FC 4

In blustery conditions this match kicked off at a lively pace with the visitors first to settle. Fine work by Martin on the right, released Fraser, but the strikers’ tame shot was easily saved by Crawford. Hazelbank, though, are no mugs and soon started to get a foothold in the game with Smith the main driving force. However, they never really used the ball efficiently enough and Simpson was barely tested in the visiting goal.

The last twenty minutes of the half saw Mountview dominate play and they really should have opened the scoring long before Fraser broke the deadlock. Doherty started the move when he eluded two players before releasing Mitchell. Crawford got down well to parry the midfielder’s shot, unfortunately for the keeper, Fraser was on hand to slot home. Two minutes passed after the restart and the visitors doubled their lead. The industrious Parsons cutting in from the right before finding the top corner from outside the box.

This seemed to take the wind out of the home side. Mountview were now well on top and the game was played entirely in the home side’s half.

Doherty then made it three when he finished off a great move involving Mitchell and Fraser, with a brilliant diving header. The withdrawal of Doherty and Parsons by the visitors coupled with the introduction of McCartney, Sheppard and McClean for the home side, saw the game briefly turn on its head. The home side threw caution to the wind as they pushed forward in numbers to try and get something out of the game.

The home side, though were gifted a goal on 70 minutes, when Simpson failed to deal with Sheppard’s drive from outside the box, as he allowed it to somehow slip through his hands.

Hazelbank were now causing panic amongst the visitors, but like the first half failed to find the target. Order, however, was restored on 78 minutes. Crawford raced off his line to clear the ball from McLelland. Unfortunately, his clearance fell straight to Johnston, who smashed the ball straight back into the empty net from near the half way line to make it four for the visitors. Man of the Match: Gary Johnston (Mountview)

Balnamore FC 5 Somerset FC 2

The wind and a bobbly pitch played a big part in this fixture, making it difficult to have a decent passing game. Balnamore had the best share of possession early on and opened the scoring with a Ryan Madison penalty. The second half again started bright for Balnamore with Sean Hogg notching their second after a through ball from Madison. The Coleraine men came back immediately an also had a penalty, Cochrane calmly converting.

Simon Armstrong got on the score sheet for Balnamore’s third firing past the stranded Newman from an acute angle. Sean Hogg soon after took Balnamore’s tally to four with an excellent strike from just inside the box into the bottom corner. All credit to Somerset they battled hard and muffled a goal back through Johnson after the home team failed to clear their lines. Balnamore had the game killed off by this time but saved the best to last, Anthony Kelly burst up the wing evading two challenges to deliver a perfect cross for the on song Simon Armstrong to bullet his header beyond Newman and make sure of the points.

The manager and players of Balnamore FC would like to offer two members of the team, James Elder and Simon Armstrong their sympathy, after both suffered family bereavements this week. Man of the Match: Simon Armstrong (Balnamore)

FC Macosquin 4 Ballyrashane FC 1

Interim manager Thomas Cambell took the helm. Macosquin got off to a great start when Noel Downs rifled a shot from outside the box into the top corner. Macosquin kept up their pressure and Downs was in the mood as he rifled another long range shot into the other corner. Ballyrashane fought back bravely and pulled one back after half an hour but unfortunately they were unable to grab a second as McGahon who had been running them ragged the whole game popped in front of his defender for goal number three.

The second half was a lot tighter but Downs completed his perfect day when he latched onto a great ball from Vauls for his hat trick. Ballyrashane continued to battle until the end but as a contest this game was over. Man of the Match: Noel Downs (FC Macosquin)

The Villagers 0 West Bann Athletic 2

The game was played in blustery conditions with Villagers choosing to play with the wind at their backs in the first half. The Athletic midfield and back four were working hard managing to limit Villagers chances on goal and when they did come they were wind assisted shots from distance with which the Villagers went close on several occasions.

Athletic had the most clear cut chance of the half which fell to Martin Fleming who linked well with strike partner Phil Stevenson however the keeper saved well low at his front post. Athletic were looking the more likely to score the all important first goal and they took the lead rather fortuitously in the 50th minute through Chris Shirlow with a shot come cross that beat the keeper from all of forty yards.

West Bann Athletics’ Martin Robinson made it 2-0 in the 65th minute when his fine shot from twenty yards found the bottom right corner of the net.

Villagers pushed hard for the remainder of the game for a goal that would get them back into the game but were unable to find a way through a determined West Bann Athletic rearguard marshalled well by Peter O’Kane. Man of the Match: Chris Shirlow/ Steven Doherty (West Bann Athletic)

Coleraine Olympic 1 Berthas FC 9

Practically from the off, Bertha’s picked up where they left off from last week’s comprehensive cup win. Around the ten minute mark, Bertha’s took the lead when Willy Parsons scored the first of an eventual hat trick from 12 yards. Desperate to stay in the match, Olympic tried to press forward in hope of an equaliser but were caught on the break when Adrian Drake raced clear to slide the ball past Doherty for a two-goal lead.

Directly following this, Olympic halved the deficit with a goal that owed much to the extremely windy conditions. Young John Sweeney floated a corner that caught the wind and deceived everybody including Elder in the Bertha’s goal and ended up in the back of his net.

Lovely interplay resulted in a third goal for Bertha’s when Davy Caldwell spun on a sixpence to ram the ball home. It was the next goal that really put the game beyond Olympic when Aaron Laverty finished confidently when through on goal. The next goal could be considered a goal of the season contender when Willy Parsons weaved his way through a couple of challenges before slamming the ball home from 25 yards.

Entering the second half, Bertha’s didn’t show any signs of easing up. Slick passing saw Drake break down the right before finishing. Effortlessly, Willy Parsons the glided beyond the whole Olympic defence and completed his hat-trick with a fine finish.

By now, Olympic were out on their feet and Bertha’s, now playing with ten men due to an injury to Minihan, soon added to their lead. Outstanding passing through the midfield released Parsons on the right, he cut the ball back and it was McClarty who finished exquisitely despite pressure from two oncoming defenders.

Yet there was still time for one more goal and it came from an unlikely source. Somehow, Nigel White, playing his last game of the season due to work commitments and sporting a streamlined new look, rose like a salmon from a corner and his header found the back of the net for Bertha’s 20th goal in two games. Man of the Match: Willie Parsons (Berthas FC)

Hillview FC 2 The Taverners 5

The away side took a two-goal lead with goals from Neil Thompson and Peter Baird. Hillview got a bit of a grip on things and pulled one back from the penalty spot through Robert Sweeney.

The Taverners continued to dominate though and further increased their lead through Dunlop and a second goal from Thompson.

Hillview grabbed their second but a possible comeback was ended with the away team getting their fifth of the match through O’Boyle. The Taverners could have scored more on the day but found ‘Noodles’ McDowell in the home team goal in excellent form. Man of the Match: Willie McDowell (Hillview)