The big game of the weekend was in Ballymoney where the two main contenders for the league title squared up and it was Portrush Old Boys who took the points with a last minute goal scored in a 3-2 win over Glebe Rangers Old Boys.
The other two teams in the top four, West Bann Athletic and Berthas FC won their games with The Villagers and FC Crusaders respectively.
Dunaghy continued their good run of form with victory in their derby with The Taverners. Balnamore picked up a big win at home to Hazelbank while their were clean sheet victories for Ballyrashane and FC Windyhall in their games.
This Saturday hosts the Semi-Finals of the Coleraine Social Club Knockout Shield. Glebe Rangers Old Boys will be big favourites in their game against FC Crusaders while the other tie is a 50/50 shout between Portrush Old Boys and holders West Bann Athletic.
Glebe Rangers Old Boys 2 Portrush Old Boys 3
This was a keenly anticipated fixture between two sides with title aspirations and it proved to be the compelling fixture that it promised.
The Glebe Old Boys took the game to Portrush immediately and had several chances to open the scoring. Scott Fraser headed over from a strong position, and Steel was just inches away from meeting Fulton’s pinpoint cross from the left.
But a free kick on the halfway mark, was delivered to the back post where Steel turned the ball back across goal for Elder to finish from close range and put the home team deservedly one goal ahead.
Portrush OB began to gain some belief after this and did string together a few moves but did not really threaten Allen in goal. But a few minutes before half time saw the ball come across goal to Shirlow on the left, who sent in a first time cross , which was met powerfully by a Paul Wallace header to level the game.
The away side took great encouragement from their late goal just before half time, and looked an improved side after the restart. And within three minutes, a series of passes on the left, led to DD McClelland putting a neat pass into Martin, who continued the move by passing out left where a first time cross was met again by Johnny Martin to finish smartly and put Portrush ahead for the first time.
Glebe OB created further chances for themselves from set pieces where Bellingham and Steel were kept out by last ditch defending or McCullough in goals was equal to the challenge. But with 20 minutes to go a well worked move on the right was created and Paul Holmes took control and drilled his effort just inside the post for an excellent, and well deserved equaliser.
The Glebe OB pushed for the winner, but were kept out by a stubborn Portrush defence. However, just as the match conclusion drew near, Portrush managed to push forward one last time, where a passage of play moved the ball to the left where Dossy Mitchell laid the ball back to Daryl Wills, who switched the ball onto his right foot, and curled his spectacular effort into the top corner, just evading Danny Allen’s fingertips, to clinch a vital victory and which sent the away team into raptures.
Overall this was an entertaining match where there was little between the two teams. A draw would have been a fair result, so Glebe OB will feel very hard done by. . Man of the Match: Paul Irwin (Portrush OB FC)
West Bann Athletic 4
The Villagers 1
West Bann Athletic defeated Villagers 4-1 at rugby avenue in a game tighter than the scoreline suggests.
In a tight and hard fought first half the best chance fell to Lee Nevin who saw his penalty saved by the Villagers number one. Athletic took the lead early in the second half through Aaron McLelland however this advantage was short lived as villagers equalised within minutes through Glen Watt.
Athletic battled hard to restore there lead and did so again through Aaron McLelland. McLelland increased the lead further and sealed all three points and man of the match with a hat-trick goal. Lee Nevin made up for his penalty miss scoring late on to make it 4-1 at the final whistle to Athletic whose thoughts now turn to the small matter of a semi final and defence of the Coleraine Social Club Challenge Shield against Portrush Old Boys at Castlerock. Man of the Match: Aaron McLelland (WBA FC)
FC Crusaders 1
Berthas FC 10
It took the away side two minutes to take the lead in this one when McLaughlin found Davy Campbell and the big man lashed home a pearler from 25 yards.
They got their second from the penalty spot, Willie Stewart scoring. Graeme Hanna and Ricky Pollock added numbers three and four from close range before Stewart grabbed his second and his team’s fifth when he tapped home after Simpson had saved his penalty.
Berthas scored their sixth moments into the second half when Biggart found McLaughlin and he placed a peach of a strike past Simpson from the edge of the area. Berthas were pushing forward but were switching off at the back and the home side pulled one back when McClelland put Downs through on goal, he finished in style, rounding Doherty to score.
Berthas grabbed their seventh, again from the spot, their third of the day, Stewart getting his hat-trick. Hanna got his second of the game, when he went through sauntered by Simpson to tap home. Biggart scored number nine when put clean through and Stewart rounded off the scoring with his fourth and number 10 for his team when he tapped home Pollock’s pull back. Man of the Match: Graeme Hanna (Berthas FC)
Dunaghy Old Boys 4
The Taverners 2
Dunaghy old boys entertained Taveners in a local derby at Landhead Road.
Taveners started brightly and took the lead on six minutes when R McKee capitalised on some slack defending to slot a low drive past Kinnaird into the bottom corner.
It was end to end but it was the old boys who equalised when ‘Chin’ Blair scored with a powerful header. Taveners took the lead again on the half hour mark when S McKee latched onto a long ball and lobbed the advancing keeper. ‘Chin’ Blair then got his second to put Dunaghy level again when he took the ball on his chest back to goal swiveled and unleashed a belter into the top corner.
The Old Boys dominated possession after the break and went in front on 75 minutes as Mark Blair jnr fired in from 20 yards.
With time running out ‘Chin’ got his hat-trick to wrap up the three points. Man of the Match: Ricky Blair (Dunaghy Old Boys)
Balnamore FC 5
Hazelbank FC 2
It was the visitors however who scored first as Wilson collected the ball, ran half the length of the pitch, showed composure as he passed into the net.
It could have been two for Hazelbank from a follow up corner but Buick managed to head clear off the line. Balnamore were playing well, winning most individuals battles and their pressure paid off on the half hour mark, Nicky Tweed equalising after a scramble in the six yard area.
Willie Corr fired the home side in front soon after with a clinical finish from just inside the box. Hazelbank however came back into the game just before half time after hesitation in defence by Balnamore, Mc Clarty side footing into the net from close range.
After the break Balnamore stepped up their game and constantly looked threatening as they attacked down the flanks. Hazelbank couldn’t seem to break down a solid Balnamore back line and keeper James Elder who was having an excellent day.
Balnamore took the lead on the hour with an excellent volley by Lee Kelly, the young striker thundered his shot giving the keeper no chance, Hazelbank threw everything at the Balnamore’s defence but the Fulton Park men marshalled them well and stayed strong. Lee Kelly scored again what must been goal of the season, Brent Watton who was having a super game crossed for Kelly who took his time before hitting the top corner from 30 yards.
Hazelbank felt the game eroding as they wasted a few half chances. Willie Corr put game out of reach late on with his second of the day, scoring a quality strike from a free kick. Well done to both sides for a very entertaining and open game. Man of the Match: Brent Watton (Balnamore)
Coleraine Olympic 0
Ballyrashane FC 3
Ballyrashane took the lead as J Gray crossed for Weatherall to stroke home from six yards out.
Weatherall was upended soon afterwards as the visitors were awarded a penalty, which was coolly slotted in by Lennon.
Ballyrashane extended their lead in the 56th minute as Chris Morrow showed a lovely bit if skill before providing Weatherall the pin point ball for his second finishing with a cool shoulder to leave the score at 3-0.
Morrow had a goal disallowed minutes later for offside and the game was settled at that. In the other goal Ballyrashane shot stopper Paul Newman had little to do though stayed alert to deny veteran J. Sweeny a goal from a well struck freekick. Man of the Match: William Lennon (Ballyrashane)
FC Windyhall 1
Finn McCools 0
Finns started with the wind on their backs and tried to catch the Windyhall defence out at every opportunity with the height of Ali Dobbin and speed of Parke up front.
The Windyhall defence of Cochrane, Tennant, Grills and Ferguson stood up to everything Finns had to throw at them.
The majority of the first half was a midfield battle with Windyhall maybe just shading it although neither keeper had a significant save to make.
Windyhall started well in the second half with a flurry of corners and thats how the deadlock was broken.
A Donnell corner from the left fell to Windyhall’s O’Neill on the edge of the box. O’Neill executed a perfect volley back across goal and into the top corner. Finns pushed hard to pull level but Windyhall caught the visitors offside on numerous occasions. Man of the Match: Robert Sweeney & David Cochrane Jnr (FC Windyhall)