The headlines in the Hutchinson Tiles Winter League are getting quite predictable this season and Saturday past was no different as the big three, Glebe Rangers Old Boys, Macosquin Village and Mountview all kept up their chase for the league title with good victories.
Glebe ran out winners in a tough Old Boys contest with Dunaghy, Macosquin Village seen off an inform West Bann Athletic while a late Dave Parsons header was enough for Mountview to take the points against Hillview. Elsewhere there was good wins for FC Macosquin and The Taverners while Ballyrashane, Hazelbank and Finns enjoyed comfortable wins over Coleraine Olympic, Brook Street and Somerset respectively.
Glebe Rangers Old Boys 3 Dunaghy Old Boys 1
This meeting of the Old Boys took place at the Joey Dunlop Centre on Saturday morning. With Gary McCracken enjoying a mid-season break in the sunshine and Mervyn Greer serving a two game suspension, manager Ian Bellingham brought Colin McBride and Paul Holmes back into the starting line-up.
Rab McComb also made an eventful return as he replaced the unavailable Danny Allen as the home custodian. Glebe pressed from the kick-off with Elder linking with Colin McBride to force Kinnaird into early action and the pattern continued as Bellingham scored with a fine header from a Holmes cross in the sixth minute.
Glebe continued to push forward as they attempted to add to their advantage and Fulton blocked a fierce drive from McCurdy. Dunaghy gradually gained a foothold in the game with Robinson causing problems up front along with young Warren Blair. The older Arnie Blair was also prominent as he linked with the evergreen Joe Patton and man of the match Gary Dunlop.
However half-time arrived with Glebe still in front. The second half proved to be a frantic encounter best summed up when ex team-mates Patton and Colin McBride clashed in the middle of the park. Prior to this Dunaghy had drawn level when a breakdown in communication between Blair and McComb lead to the latter’s dismissal as he handled outside the box.
The versatile DJ McBride donned the gloves as Bellingham rearranged his troops. However McBride’s first job was to pick the ball out of the net as Patton stroked home the free-kick, albeit McBride’s positioning directly behind the defensive wall assisted the old fox.
This appeared to galvanise the home team and their efforts were rewarded when Bellingham nodded on a McCurdy corner for James Steele to notch with a neat header past Kinnaird. With time running out Elder latched on to a McCurdy through ball to slam home an unstoppable drive and make the final score three one to Glebe. Man of the Match: Gary Dunlop (Dunaghy Old Boys)
Macosquin Village 3 West Bann Athletic 1
This was an extremely hard game for both sides who have been on good runs of form this season, with West Bann coming off the back of an impressive win over FC Macosquin the previous week. It was the away side who started off better piling pressure on the Macosquin backline from the onset and they took a deserved lead on 13 minutes when Fleming’s flicked on header caused confusion in the Macosquin defence allowing Pancott to steal in and roll the ball past the advancing Tosh in the home side’s goal.
This setback gave Macosquin the lift that they desperately needed and they gradually became the more dominant side, creating a number of chances, with Laverty coming close on two occassions and Jones saving well from Lee Biggart’s low drive.
The pressure finally paid off on 30 minutes when a mix up in the West Bann defence following Connor’s cross saw the ball drop nicely for Darren Stewart inside the box for the frontman to hammer the ball past Jones.
Macosquin started the second half with the same urgency as they finished the first, knowing the next goal could well decide the outcome of the match and continued the dominate possession but failed to take any of their early chances. West Bann were always a huge threat coming forward but their final ball let them down on more than one occassion. Finally the home side made their dominance count on 64 minutes when Biggart burst down the wing to find Stewart with a great cross who slotted the ball into the top of the net with a neat finish.
The game then began to die out with both sides not being able to keep possesion to mount any threatening attacks, until the 80th minute when Steven Connor produced a moment of magic, controlling the ball 20 yards out he unleashed an unstoppable volley into the top corner with Jones left stranded in the middle of his goal. This match could prove to be a vital game in the race for the title for Macosquin, as West Bann proved they can be a match for any team. Man of the Match: Peter O’Kane (West Bann Athletic)
Hillview FC 0 Mountview FC 1
At the end of the season Mountview may look back at this game as a pivotal point in their campaign. The home side started the brighter and could have opened the scoring inside the opening minutes. McNeill’s cross from the right was almost headed home by Close, but the striker failed to make enough contact with the ball. The ball though then found its way to Hutchinson, who turned inside his marker but unfortunately fired wide.
This seemed to waken the visitors up, as within minutes they created a chance of their own. Doherty eluding the challenge of Sweeney before crossing for Parsons at the back post. The veteran though saw his header strike the upright. Irwin was next to try his luck for the visitors and his shot from outside the box looked to be heading in, but Sweeney was on hand to clear off the line.
The game was moving from end to end at a frantic pace with both sides creating plenty of chances. Neither side though managed to score before the interval. The second half saw Hillview up the ante as they piled on the pressure, forcing the visitors deeper and deeper into their half. The visitors were struggling to get any rhythm going at all. A poor clearance by McLaughlin in the Mountview goal was pounced upon by Close, but thankfully for the visitors, the keeper redeemed himself when he got down well to save at the striker’s feet.
It was now all one way traffic and the home side thought they had finally broke the deadlock on 65 minutes.
Unfortunately, Close’s brilliant drive from the edge of the box smashed off the crossbar. With Hillview pushing men forward, the visitors started to have success on the counter. Wills finding space on the left before crossing the ball into the path of McLelland. The striker though failed to trouble McDowell in the home goal.
Gary Johnston was next to go close for the visitors but again McDowell was equal to the task. In fact, if both teams had taken their chances the score line could well have been five apiece by this stage. As it was though, the game looked to be heading for a scoreless draw until eight minutes from time Parsons headed home for the visitors after fine work once again by Doherty.
Hillview were not about to give in and they kept pushing in search of an equaliser. With seconds remaining Fraser looked as though he may give his side a well deserved share of the spoils, but Irwin managed to make up the ground and clear just as the striker was about to shoot.
Hillview pushed the visitors all the way, and it was a very relieved Mountview who came away with their title challenge still in place. Man of the Match: Dave Parsons (Mountview)
The Villagers 2 FC Macosquin 5
The home side started with a real flourish as they went two up in the first 10 minutes.
Going two down really sparked the visiting team into life and they responded in kind with five straight unanswered goals from McGuinness (2), Brickley (2) and Vauls. This topsy-turvy game had a 5-2 score line at halftime with no goals coming in the second half as both teams cancelled each other out. Macosquin’s fine season continues as they hold on to fourth spot in the league. Man of the Match: Liam McGuinness (FC Macosquin)
Balnamore FC 5 The Taverners 3
There was nothing lethargic at Fulton park on Saturday as both sides served up an very entertaining game of football. Balnamore sprang into life first, however it was the Taverners who stunned the home side half way through the first half with young Neil Thomson finding the net with a cracking free kick from distance.
Balnamore struggled to get a grip on the game as it drifted away from them as half time approached. Manager Beetle Blair made a few changes at the break to freshen up proceedings but they were rocked again as Stevie Mullan pounced on to a loose ball to put the visitors two up.
The hosts were going to have to dig deep to rescue the game and up stepped Willie Corr. He pulled a goal back after exchanging passes with Nicky Tweed before beating Craig with the shot. And they drew level as they upped the pressure on the visitors goal forcing McIlmoyle to put through his own goal.
And remarkably they edged in front as Ryan Madison fired in from 30 yards. But the home side weren’t done yet as Tweed released Sean Hogg to coolly slot past the keeper.
The Taverners kept going though and they pulled a goal back as Baird fired in a great free kick. But right at the death Balnamore grabbed a fifth as McLaughlin teed Corr up for a tap in. Man of the Match: William Corr (Balnamore)
Hazelbank FC 4 Brook Street 0
Brook Street were determined to give a better account of themselves after their recent 9-0 drubbing at the hands of Hazelbank.
A better organised defence marshalled by Duffy, shut out Hazelbank for the first 45 frustrating minutes, chances were few and far between,
Dave McClean finally broke the deadlock on the hour mark as he latched on to Kelly’s pass before beating McAllister. One soon became two as Colin McClarty fired home from the spot.
The hosts should have had another spot kick when Diver was pulled back, but play was waved on.
Nigel Sheppard made it 3-0 finishing off a good passing move involving Smith and McClean. Sheppard should have had a second moments later but his weak effort was saved.
The winger though did grab a second just before the end as he smashed in Diver’s lay off
McClarty should have had a hat-trick himself as he went close with two headers, the keeper saved the first, but the second somehow managed to bounce up over the bar. Man of the Match: Stephen ‘Joe’ McCartney (Hazelbank)
Coleraine Olympic 1 Ballyrashane FC 4
Ballyrashane started at a fast pace and they took the lead on 27 minutes as McGrotty fired in. D Freeman made it 2-0 minutes later as he fired in an unstoppable shot from outside the box.
Olympic pulled a goal back at the start of the second half to give Sweeney’s men some hope.
But the visitors restored their two-goal advantage on 66 minutes as Freeman scored his second of the game. Ballyrashane were then reduced to ten men when Hemphill was shown a straight red card. This setback didn’t stop Ballyrashane when they found the net again with Freeman getting his hat-trick and to leave the score 1-4. Man of the Match: David Freeman (Ballyrashane)
Saturday 7 April
Ballyrashane v Hazelbank Ballysally 2
Bertha’s FC v Hillview FC Castlerock
Brook Street v Villagers FC Crescent 3
Dunaghy Old Boy’s v Coleraine Olympic Dunaghy
FC Macosquin v Glebe Rangers Old Boys Rugby Avenue 2
Mountview FC v Macosquin Village Rugby Avenue 3
Taverners FC v Somerset Riada 2
West Bann Athletic v Balnamore FC Rugby Avenue 1