Portstewart’s survival hopes suffered a blow on Tuesday night as the came out on the wrong side of a five-goal thriller at home to Limavady United.
In an entertaining game, the Roesiders won more convincingly than the score line would suggest, the highlight being Cathair Friel’s 45th goal of the season, breaking Peter Moran’s 23-year-old record.
United were quickly out of the traps, with player-manager Owens firing a second minute free kick wide. There followed a period of play that was fairly even between the sides, but no clear cut chance.
After fifteen minutes, however, the Roesiders took the lead, when Owens flighted over a cross from the right which evaded a series of defenders and was brushed into the net from close range by Blain Morrison dashing in at the back post.
If United were expecting to cruise to an easy victory, they were quickly disabused of the notion, and gifted the equaliser to the Seahawks in the 28th minute. From a corner, the United defence was asleep as Doherty was able to head the ball back into the six yard box for the unmarked Milliken to head home.
Knowing that only a win would do to keep their title hopes alive, United tried to hit back, and on 31 minutes a moment of brilliance from Friel nearly restored the lead, as he wrong footed his marker, made some space, but shot over.
At the other end, Stewart had a half chance on 39 minutes, pivoting inside the box before firing in a low shot which Wells claimed at the second attempt.
The second half saw United turn the screw, and they were rewarded for their dominance in the 56th minute with a simple goal. From a corner on the left Andy Devlin was allowed far too much space to rise unchallenged and power home a close range header.
The Roesiders were now in the ascendancy, with Friel proving himself to be a real nuisance, if anything trying too hard to get that elusive record breaking goal. One sublime moment of skill, on 72 minutes, saw him pull down a cross ball inside the box, and volley goal-wards, only to be foiled by Madison.
Almost immediately after this let off, the Seahawks had another escape, as Owens saw his effort blocked, and the ball fell to Morrison inside the box, but he blazed his effort wide of the post from close range. Friel was a threat every time he got the ball, dragging his marker all around the pitch.
It was beginning to look as if he was going to be disappointed, despite the obvious efforts of his team mates to create chances for him. Finally, in the 83rd minute, his moment arrived, as he showed great skill to dodge two tackles in the box to gleefully slam the ball into the net. The record had been broken!
Johnny Stewart scrambled a late second goal for Portstewart in the 88th minute minutes after Craig Moore had been given his marching orders.
Portstewart: Joel Madison, David McClements, Ryan McAllister, Mark Mearns, John Neill, Paul Milliken, Chris Hanson (Patrick Gault 78), Lee Forgrave, Johnny Stewart, Craig Moore, Ryan Doherty.
Substitutes not used: Johnny Gawne, Chris Crowe, Matt Hynds, Ciaran Ferris.
Cautioned: Doherty (34), Moore (42), Mearns (48),
Dismissed: Moore (85)
Limavady United: Paul Wells, Andy Devlin, Declan McKeever, Bryan McClelland, Hugh Carlin, Gareth McFadden, Paul Owens, Gareth Tommons, Blain Morrison, Cathair Friel, Conor Harkin (Lee Harkin).
Substitutes not used: Gerard Logue, Kyle Curran, Corey McMullan.
Cautioned: McKeever (54), Tommons (86).
Referee: Stephen Wallace (Londonderry).