PORTRUSH II 0
ANNADALE IV 1
Saturday afternoon saw Portrush defending top spot in Junior League Five against an Annadale side who, after a shaky start to the season, have gone six games unbeaten, winning five.
The game began in a cagey manner, with both sides careless in possession. Annadale began with a pressing game and their backline pushed high up to the halfway line.
The Annadale veterans were outnumbering Portrush in midfield and were looking dangerous, down the left hand side in particular. Despite the pressure, Portrush were able to play on the counter attack and the best chance of the first half fell to Barry McMullan, who fired narrowly wide after a superb solo run.Portrush continued to defend deep allowing Annadale to have greater share of the possession. A number of attacks down the Annadale right were broken down illegally by Portrush and, through fear of conceding a short-corner after warning from the umpire, Annadale were able to fire a number of dangerous balls into the ‘D’ without challenge. The resolute defence, in particular John McMullan, were able to deal with the Annadale attack with a combination of crucial blocks, last ditch clearances and great work from Gordy McAllister in the Portrush goal. Annadale were awarded a couple of short-corners but the danger was cleared on each occasion.
Despite conceding the share of the ball, Portrush were able to pose a threat on the counter-attack but were unable to capitalise on their chances. The Portrush attack was thwarted time and time again by the Annadale defence who tackled superbly in and around the ‘D’. James McCook’s reverse stick effort, fired just wide of the near post, was as close as the Portrush attack came as the first half drew to a close.
Portrush began the second half sluggishly and conceded a short-corner early on. Richard McNabb was able to get a block on the initial effort at the concession of another short-corner. The second effort was superbly blocked by Gordy McAllister after a textbook set-piece from Annadale. The game continued to be a tight and cagey affair with both teams attacking at will but both defences defending resolutely. Portrush were denied a certain goal by a superb goal line clearance from the defender after Peter McMullan’s pinpoint strike from a short-corner. Shortly after, a goalmouth scramble in the Annadale ‘D’ saw a number of Portrush efforts blocked by both goalkeeper and defenders, with the final effort blocked illegally by the Annadale defender following a shot on goal. The umpire awarded a flick to Portrush. James McCook, who had was having an excellent game, saw his effort sail wide of the left post. Annadale, with renewed confidence after such a let off, were able to force Portrush back into their own half for the remainder of the game.
With Portrush defending so deep, Annadale were able to break forward at will. Most of the attacks were dealt with well by the Portrush backline. With just a minute to go in the game a strike into the ‘D’ from Annadale evaded the Portrush defence and was swept in by the unmarked Annadale player at the back post. With seconds remaining in the game, the distraught Portrush team were unable to muster another attacking opportunity to equalise.
A tough encounter between two closely matched sides saw Annadale grab victory in a game that could have gone either way. Portrush take a number of positives in defeat with both Graeme Kerr and James McCook performing superbly box to box. However, it was John McMullan who stole the plaudits with a terrific performance. With a number of key players missing, John was asked to play in a centre back role and did so with such maturity in what has been a fine season.
With the defeat, Portrush conceded top place in Junior 5 but with a game in hand, still remain in a great position in the league.
Portrush II: Gordy McAllister, Craig Hogg (C), Peter McMullan, John McMullan, Josh Hutchinson, Graeme Kerr, Aaron Douglas, Graeme Christie, James McCook, Barry McMullan, Andy Dalzell, Lewis Greene, Adam Holmes, Richard McNabb
Man of the Match: John McMullan