Glebe Rangers Old Boys took a big step towards the league title on Saturday past, even at this early stage with a fine victory over nearest challengers Hillview FC.
The Ballymoney men have now won 13 from 13 league games and now look firm favourites for the title. Berthas FC moved up into second place with a good victory over Dunaghy Old Boys, while Mountview’s comfortable win against West Bann Athletic moved them into third. Balnamore continued their good run of form with an easy victory at home to Coleraine Olympic while FC Macosquin and Hazelbank kept up the chase at the top with victory at home to The Villagers and FC Windyhall respectively.
In the remaining games, The Taverners picked up their second win in as many weeks, this time away to Ballyrashane with Brook Street and Finn McCools sharing the points at the Crescent playing fields.
Glebe Rangers Old Boys 2 Hillview FC 0
With both these sides having made impressive starts to the season the stakes were high at Megaw Park on Saturday morning. With a number of late withdrawals player-boss Ian Bellingham was forced to shuffle the pack and, after his impressive display last week, Adam Clarke was handed a starting berth alongside Midget Patterson. Hillview lined up on familiar lines.
In a tight first half clear-cut chances were at a premium. Wilmont carried the main threat for the Old Boys whilst the visitors looked dangerous in a number of breakaways with Close and McClelland featuring prominently. Hillview’s best chance of the half saw McClelland’s shot screw wide whilst Ricky Blair’s powerful header was over the bar for the home side. However neither goalkeeper was really tested during the opening period.
This changed completely in the second half with the game opening up as both sides chased the three points. McVey saved well from Wilmont on a couple of occasions before Danny Allen, in his best display for a number of years, pulled off a flying save to deny Close. After 61 minutes Glebe made the breakthrough when Reilly popped up on the left. His cross found Wilmont inside the box and the striker continued his recent goal-scoring run with a fine header. Hillview responded positively to this setback and Allen was called into action a number of times to repel the danger.
However the Old Boys remained a threat with Patterson and Wilmont combining well and, after one such combination forced a corner, Davy John McBride nodded home Wilmont’s set-piece. It was a deserved goal for the midfield maestro who belied his knee problems with a virtuoso display. Hillview continued to press but found the Glebe defence and particularly Allen in resolute mood and the game came to a close with no further scoring. Man of the Match: Davy John McBride (Glebe Rangers Old Boys)
Berthas FC 2 Dunaghy Old Boys 1
Berthas met Dunaghy Old Boys in Castlerock in a game which turned out to be an excellent encounter with Berthas picking up a big three points in the process. It was the home team who started the brighter with Andrew Minihan hitting the post and then forcing Ricky Doherty into the first of many top class saves in the game. Dunaghy slowly got into the game and Hickinson and Dunlop fired over from outside the box. The away team were finding it tough to break through the Berthas defence and when they did Steven McIlreavy was on hand for a brilliant cover tackle to keep out Warren Blair.
Berthas pushed and pushed with McLaughlin and Patterson both failing with attempts. As time closed in the first half, a neat turn and strike from distance from Blair forced Elder to make the save. Into the second half and it was a similar pattern to the first with Berthas creating the better chances with Dunaghy looking dangerous in attack. Doherty was in superb form and produced three top saves, one in particular from Graeme Hanna which looked destined for the back of the net. Johny Elder in the Berthas goal had to make two good stops to deny Blair and Robinson.
With 20 minutes to go, Berthas hit the bar with a free kick and at this stage it looked like it was going to be one of those days for the home side but it was sub Adrian Drake who came on to make the difference for the home side. First he won the ball deep in his own half and with a lovely piece of skill, set his team away on the break, Hanna and Graham produced a neat 1-2 with Graham finding himself one on one with the keeper, who again made a great save but McLaughlin was on hand to smash home the rebound.
Moments later it was two for the home side when Drake’s trickery won his team a dangerous free kick 25 yards out. Up stepped Andy MacAulay to bend a stunning free kick into the top corner of Doherty’s net. Dunaghy pushed men forward and Elder again had to be alert to tip a strike over the bar. With five minutes left, Dunaghy grabbed a lifeline when Hickinson headed home Ian Blair’s long throw. Dunaghy threw everything forward but couldn’t get the equaliser with Berthas holding out for a deserved win. Man of the Match: Ricky Doherty (Dunaghy Old Boys)
Mountview FC 9 West Bann Athletic 0
Mountview took the lead in this game through Doherty, Martin then increased his team’s lead and an own goal left the home team leading by three at the break. Mountview ran away with it in the second half with Doherty grabbing a further three goals to take his total to four, Martin grabbing his second, McAllister scored a penalty with Gareth Mitchell scoring his teams ninth and last goal of the game. Man of the Match: Chris Hughes (Mountview)
Balnamore FC 7 Coleraine Olympic 1
Balnamore continued their rich vein of form on Saturday with a comfortable win against a committed Olympic side worthy of a position higher than where they find themselves. Both sides endeavoured to play the ball on the ground, with the Bannside men doing enough to frustrate Balnamore for the opening spell. However the home side’s pressure paid off in the thirteenth minute when ‘Mr Goals’ himself, Simon Armstrong, slid in to poke the ball home after good work by Nicky Tweed.
Balnamore doubled the score two minutes later, this time Philip Hanna sending the ball beyond Olympic keeper Doherty from the edge of the area. Olympic looked lively and at times restricted Balnamore’s style of play, but they lacked that killer finish. Simon Armstrong scored his second of the day for Balnamore within the space of five minutes this time a neat finish from close range. And just before half time young Lee Kelly had a dejavu moment when for the second week in a row he netted another free kick from outside the box.
Olympic commenced the second period well pressurising the home side, Balnamore clearing off the line after Weatherall got behind the defence. Midfield dynamo Andy Heggarty got on the score sheet for Balnamore on the hour mark with a fine finish giving Doherty no chance. Glenn Cooke pulled one back for Olympic as the “more” men lost concentration for a short period. But Andy Heggarty calmed affairs with a well taken strike from outside the area for his second of the day.
Brent Watton ended the rout within a left foot drive into the corner of the net to make it seven as the game drew to a close. Well done to both sides, Olympic played hard to the end, Balnamore maybe could have had a few more goals with being a little more clinical, but its another three points secured. Man of the Match: Philip Hanna (Balnamore)
Hazelbank FC 3 FC Windyhall 0
Hazelbank opened the scoring on six minutes, Steven Crawford’s long clerance was mistimed by Tennant allowing Johnny McIlreavey get onto the loose ball controlling it and powering past Donnel. Under pressure he took his shot which came off the foot of the post. but Ciaran Wilson, just back from three weeks away, didn’t miss his chance to fire into the net,
Hazelbank began to play some great football, again McIlreavey was involved his presance proving to be a big test for the Windyhall defence. Nigel Shepperd should have doubled the lead firing over from close range from McClean’s cut back. Mark Boorman missed the best chance of the half to double the lead his shot well saved by Newman’s feet.
Windyhall still carried some threat and with game only at 1-0 they should have punished hazelbanks sloppiness at the back. Kelly’s back pass wasn’t cleared well by Crawford as Allen closed him down and blocking the ball, but they couldn’t convert. A change of formation at half time saw McClean becoming more central and Shepperd going wide and it proved a good move with Nigel on hand to finish off McClean’s pass to double the lead on 67 minutes.
The forward thought he had doubled his tally on 72 minutes as he again fired home at the back post only to be denied by the ref for off side, which was a tight call. Ciaran Wilson grabbed the all important third thhough and it was the goal which finally broke Windyhall’s resistance. Hazelbank broke down the left Shepard switched the play with a great cross field pass into Wilson’s path to fire home. Overall a good performance and much needed confidence boost for Hazelbank. Man of the Match: James Smith (Hazelbank)
Brook Street 2 Finn McCools 2
On a very cold saturday morning this game looked to be tight going by league results. Brook Street came out firing from the first whistle, but they just couldn’t get a decent opportunity to test the Finns keeper. Football was flowing end to end and it was Finns who took the lead from the spot after Leckie made a rash challenge inside the box. This seemed to kick Brook Street back into life and it wasn’t long until they where level. Joel McDonald playing a well worked short free kick to James Tosh who burried it inside the post. As the half came to a close Finns pushed and pushed and only a goal line clearance from Brook Street left the scores level at the break.
The second half wasn’t long into play before Finns where in front again with their second penalty of the day. This time Finns kept the foot on the gas and mounted plenty of chances without an end product. The referee had to stop play quite a bit for free kicks as it was a very tight match. With five minutes to go Brook Street drew level thanks to who else but Joel McDonald with a great lob over the advancing keeper. Both teams searched for a winner but it ended in a 2-2 draw. Man of the Match: Joel McDonald (Brook Street)
Ballyrashane FC 1 The Taverners 3
With both teams almost equal on points this was set to be a thrilling encounter. Ballyrashane were fast out of the blocks and played one long ball through which caught the Taverners sleeping and Ballyrashane took the lead with a neat finish from John Freeman in the first minute of the game.
This seemed to waken the Taverners and they begun to push the ball wide with Joseph Quinn and David Dobbin attacking well down the flanks. Joseph Quinn finally got the breakthrough in the 14 minute with a lob from 30 yards. The second goal soon followed also by Quinn beating the keeper and heading the ball into the back of the net a minute later.
The Taverners were now in total control with Mooney and Blair marshaling the back line. It was all Taverners for most of the second half and with Ballyrashane keeper Ronnie Kane having to make some good saves before Quinn finality found the back of the net when he drove the ball in from the left to produce a neat finish in the 58th minute and seal the game for Taverners. Man of the Match: Cathal Mooney (The Taverners)