Glebe Rangers Old Boys now set the pace at the top of the Hutchinson Tiles Winter League after their win at the weekend over West Bann Athletic.
That win coupled by Berthas FC’s first defeat of the season at home to Portrush means Ian Bellingham’s men now sit a point clear at the top of the table and with games in hand, they look good for the title even at this early stage.
Elswhere Finn McCools and Ballyrashane each scored four in an entertaining draw while Millburn thrashed basement boys Coleraine Olympic. Dunaghy Old Boys took the points against FC Windyhall while The Villagers took the spoils by the odd goal in five away to Balnamore.
West Bann Athletic 1
Glebe Rangers Old Boys 4
West Bann hosted Glebe Rangers Old Boys in the reverse fixture from two weeks ago and it was the visitors who took the points in a hard fought encounter.
Rodney Doherty had an early chance for Glebe but failed to capitalise and clear-cut chances were at a premium until Elder missed with a header. West Bann, with Lee Nevin prominent, had a number of efforts from long range but failed to trouble McBride and it was Doherty who made the breakthrough when he forced home from close range.
The in-form striker doubled his side’s advantage just before half-time with a flying header after a fine flowing move. The Old Boys extended their lead when Bellingham produced an excellent right-footed finish from Elder’s free-kick, however this was the signal for West Bann to step up the tempo.
And they got their reward when Matthew McCandless slotted past McBride. With front two Doherty and McKendry withdrawn due to injury it was stand-in striker Stephen Elder who finally sealed the victory with a left-footed chip past Cochrane in the closing minutes. Man of the Match: Ian Bellingham (Glebe Rangers Old Boys)
Berthas FC 0
Portrush Old Boys 2
Portrush started pushing from the off as Ali Newton fed Parsons, who helped the ball onto Tweed but pressure from two defenders snuffed out the chance.
Berthas pressed for intervals but Portrush looked solid in defence as manager ‘Titch’ Walker, who made a start, competed for every ball alongside Joe Connor, who dominated any aerial threat.
Ryan Gaston replaced ‘Dossy’ Mitchell, after last week’s unfortunate injury, and combined well with Newton and Johnny Martin. This combination linked to create the first real clear opportunity for the visitors, which was finished off by Nicky Tweed who arrived late into the box to fire Portrush ahead.
It wasn’t long before the same man doubled this advantage. A free kick into the area, was pounced on after a poor defensive clearance, and Tweed gratefully converted the chance.
It came as no surprise as Berthas’ came into the second half with a point to prove and took the initiative straight from the whistle. Stewart was creating problems with his runs and long balls from defence were being hammered straight to the Portrush backline, but the away defence stood equal to the task.
McCullough in the Portrush goal also collected the ball when asked the question. But a through ball split the defence on one occasion, and McCullough caught the Bertha’s forward and a penalty was the clear outcome. But McCullough showed excellent reflexes to push the firmly struck shot away for a corner.
From this, Berthas pressed continuously and it took a few clearances off the line, plus last ditch tackles to frustrate Berthas and keep the score line unchanged. Berthas threw an extra man up front but to no avail. Martin was always giving Portrush a strong outlet on the right along with assistance by Gareth Kerr, as he helped to create an opportunity for the Ports but the ball just fell behind Parsons and went to safety.
Berthas’ were continuously kept at bay by a resilient Portrush defence as Joe Connor, plus his experienced back line were stopping Bertha’s getting back into the game.
Overall Berthas will be aggrieved on coming away with no reward for their efforts. Portrush however, lent on all their experience to see out a game after an early advantage and give the other league chasing teams, a boost to enhance their push for the top spot. Man of the Match: Joe Connor (Portrush OB)
Dunaghy Old Boys 4
FC Windyhall 2
Dunaghy broke late in the half with McNeill skipping past a couple of players and slipping a superb ball through Windyhall’s defence and A Blair latched onto it rounded the keeper and slotted it into empty on 41 minutes.
Windyhall went straight back on the attack winning a corner and from this ‘Chin’ Blair picked it up on his own eighteen and ran the full length of the pitch beating at least four men but unfortunately sliced his shot wide.
From the resulting goal kick Blair picked it up about 25yds out and unleashed an unstoppable drive into the far corner.
They extended their lead in the second half as Nathan Blair found ‘Chin’ who brought it down instantly and slotted his low drive into the bottom corner.
They made it 4-0 on 68 minutes as Robinson slotted home from the spot after Patton had been upended.
The visitors kept going and pulled back two late goals through Hutchinson and McLaughlin.
Man of the Match: Ricky Blair (Dunaghy Old Boys)
Balnamore FC 2
The Villagers 3
The Villagers recorded their first victory in Balnamore, in a thrilling game.
They opened the scoring on two minutes when Jack Danton’s cross-cum-shot found the net.
Balnamore responded almost immediately when the Villagers keeper was adjudged to have fouled McDowell in the box, the penalty was duly despatched by Kelly.
The Villagers were playing some neat football and Shirlow came close and looked to be harshly ruled offside at one point. Balmamore took the lead on 31 minutes slightly against the run of play when Hegarty ran with the ball unchallenged and kept his cool to finish well.
Danton though brought his side level with a shot from fully 25 yards.
On 38 mins Ryan Shirlow scored a goal his future grandchildren will be sick hearing about, he got the ball on the wing and on the half volley looped it over the keeper and into the net.
Balnamore up the pressure after the break but they couldn’t find a way past Man of the Match Rab Montgomery, who made several excellent saves to keep his side in front.
The Villagers came close also with Danton hitting the crossbar, Maguire being denied by good goalkeeping and they also had a penalty shout which was turned down. Man of the Match: Rab Montgomery (Villagers FC)
Ballyrashane FC 4
Finn McCools 4
Ballyrashane settled the quickest with Mark McCandless unlucky not to find the net on a couple occasions.
The opener came from a lovely through ball from Connor that split the away defence open finding White, who slotted home in fine style. This rallied the Finns team who got on the scoresheet themselves.
A long range effort was well saved by Newman, but he couldn’t hold on and the forward tapped in the rebound. The away side stuck again shortly after with a wonder strike from a tight angle finding the top corner and leaving the hosts trailing.
The impressive Neil was causing havoc with his weaving runs, the young man chased a lost cause down rounded the Center back and crossed to the experienced Connor who drilled home to level the game and leave it level at half time.
After the half with the introduction of Simpson, who was doing all the dirty work in midfield allowing Neil and Connor lots of time on the ball, the game looked like it would swing to the home side’s advantage.
However, a cross caught Newman out and found its way into goal. The home team got back into the game with Connor again providing a great ball allowing Stirling to finish past the oncoming keeper. Captain Freeman and Carton marshalled the back four well, but Finns again took the lead when a parried long range effort again fell nicely and was finished off.
Ballyrashane wouldn’t give up and came from behind for a third time. Neil, who came close so many times, finally got his reward. A bursting run into the box was nicely finished into the corner. Man of the Match: Mark Connor (Ballyrashane)
Coleraine Olympic 1
Millburn FC 8
Millburn got off to a flyer as Cahoon flicked on a corner and McDonald headed in from close range.
The visitors weren’t hanging about and soon made it 3-0 as Cahoon helped himself to a brace.
It didn’t take time for number four to arrive, Law poking the ball home from close range.
And the fifth came just before the break in rather unfortunate circumstances for Olympic as Carton produced some neat play on the wing before whipping a ball into the box, which cannoned off a home defender and into the net.
Cahoon was taken off for a rest at the break, but his replacement, Nesbitt showed he has an eye for a goal as he too grabbed a brace. His first was a tap in and the second a great header in off the post.
Olympic looked to have pulled one back as the striker rounded the keeper, but Honeyford somehow got back to head the effort on to the bar and away from danger.
They did get a consolation late on before A Law scored Millburn’s eighth.