Bertha’s move clear at the top of the league as the chasing pack falter

Action from Bertha's 5-0 win over Ballyrashane on Saturday.
Action from Bertha's 5-0 win over Ballyrashane on Saturday.
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Berthas FC moved two points clear at the top of the Hutchinson Tiles Winter League on Saturday after they took the points away to Ballyrashane with fellow pace setters West Bann Athletic being held to a draw with Hazelbank.

The Taverners kept up their excellent run of form with a good victory at home to Balnamore. Dunaghy Old Boys took the spoils in their game with Portrush Old Boys while FC Windyhall scored five in their win away to The Villagers. Coleraine Olympic picked up their first point of the season with a draw against Brook Street.

Ballyrashane FC 0 Berthas FC 5

Berthas dominated for the majority of this game. They should have scored on a number of occasions in the first half but a mixture of poor finishing and good goalkeeping kept Hanna, Stewart, Biggart and Campbell from scoring,

Indeed it was Ballyrashane who nearly took the lead after 25 minutes of play when Neill flashed a header the wrong side of the post. Berthas finally took the lead right at the end of the half when Nevin showed bravery to get onto the end of MacAulay’s deep cross to get in front of the keeper and find the back of the net.

It was more of the same in the second half and it was the excellent Lindsay Campbell who pushed Berthas further in front when he got onto the end of Biggart’s fine cross to score. Berthas grabbed their third when Chris Patterson reacted quickest to head home after Gray had saved Stewart’s header. Number four came when McLaughlin hammered home from close range after Gray had made more good saves.

The fifth came when Caldwell intercepted Gray’s loose goal kick and quickly lobbed the Ballyrashane custodian for a fine goal. Ballyrashane kept plugging on and Gary Diamond had to be alert to clear away Neill’s shot from the edge of the area. Man of the Match: Lindsay Campbell (Berthas FC)

Hazelbank FC 1 West Bann Athletic 1

Hazelbank and West Bann Athletic served up an exciting game in very wet conditions at Rugby Avenue. It was the hosts who made the early running with James Tosh going close to breaking the deadlock. The front man went close on several other occasions in the opening 45 minutes. He cannoned a header off the post before drawing a good save out of Paul Jones, the WBA keeper was up quickly to deny Ciaran Wilson with the rebound.

Athletic took a while to get going but it was Lee Nevin who was to inspire them again. A touch of class just before half time saw him find a bit of space 20 yards out before he found the bottom corner with a fierce drive.

Hazelbank kept pushing for the equaliser after the restart and they were rewarded midway through the half when Wilson show some neat skill before firing home from the edge of the box with a strike which rivalled Nevin’s. Both sides pushed for a winner in the closing stages but Jones and Crawford stood firm in either goal to keep the scores level at the end.

The Taverners 2 Balnamore FC 1

Balnamore started the better of the two sides but the Taverners opened the scoring with Shane McKee slotting home. Shortly after Rodney Doherty made it two with a great header. The Taverners were reduced to ten men just after the restart, which left Balnamore dominating possession and they got a goal back through Nicky Tweed, but the hosts dug in for the win. Man of the Match: Johnny Kearns (The Taverners)

Portrush Old Boys 2 Dunaghy Old Boys 4

Portrush got off to a flying start against Dunaghy Old Boys when McAllister scored from a free kick on five minutes. Kerr followed this up with a long range sizzler that had Kinnaird scrambling. Dunaghy kicked into life with McCullough making two great saves from young Warren Blair.

Dunaghy were awarded a penalty after a goalkeeping infringement which Robinson confidently tucked away. And they were awarded another spot kick on 39 minutes after Ian Blair was fouled, again ‘Robo’ did the business.

They added a third on 53 minutes as Ian Blair lobbed the keeper. Blair turned provider soon after as he crossed for Robinson to head home his third.

Portrush reduced the deficit again with six minutes to go but Dunaghy saw the game out to pick up all three points. Man of the Match: Gary Dunlop (Dunaghy OB)

The Villagers 3 FC Windyhall 5

Both teams played their part in serving up an entertaining game. It was the hosts who made the brighter start as they grabbed two goals inside four minutes. The first arrived after Windyhall failed to clear Friel’s corner and McFarlane fired home.

Their second on 20 minutes had a touch of good fortune about it as Cutmore’s cross was caught by the wind, when it looked to be going over, and ended up dropping into the top corner of the Windyhall goal.

The visitors pulled one back three mintues later. A freekick by Lyle Crawford was flicked on by Clifton into the path of Donnell who blasted home from a tight angle. The Villagers had chances to increase their lead hitting the bar twice but it was Windyhall who scored next right on the stroke of half time.

Cochrane played the ball forward into Donnell’s feet who flicked it past the defender to Sweeney who rolled the ball into a empty net after winning a 50/50 with the keeper. Windyhall’s goal on the stroke of half time seemed to knock the heart out of the home team and Donnell grabbed his second of the game on the 56th minute.

Sweeney this time returning the favour playing Donnell in who went past the keeper and two defenders to again score from a tight angle.

Johnston scored Windyhall’s fourth on the 70th scoring a real poacher’s effort after good work down the right. Donnell grabbed his hat-trick on 76th minutes after being played in one-on-one with the keeper only to be brought down in the box.

Donnell dusted himself down to place the ball into the corner.

The Villagers then scored a late consolation with three minutes remaining. Cochrane’s header fell to the feet of substitute Finney who fired home. Man of the Match: Stephen Donnell (FC Windyhall)

Brook Street FC 1 Coleraine Olympic 1

This was a bottom of the table clash with both teams needing a win to kick start their slow starts to the season. Brook started of the brightest getting plenty of early chances to score. Lee McDonald missed the first when he hit just wide of the Olympic post from 20 yards out. Next to have a chance on goal was Joel McDonald, who after beating two men out on the left, decided to shot instead of passing to his unmarked brother Lee who was free on the penalty spot and Doherty pushed it out for a corner with a fine save.

Olympic employed the long ball strategy but Ryan Duffy marshalled his defence well and played a high line which meant the strikers were caught offside more often than not.

Coleraine Olympic got their first real chance of the game when Paul Beatty used his pace to get in behind Cully and run at goal, with Sweeney shouting for pass the unselfish Beatty squared it to Sweeney who knocked it into the Brook Street goal. Sweeney turned to celebrate only for the ref to adjudge it offside.  

A minute after the restart Brook Street edged in front as Lee McDonald fired home.

Olympic made three changes throwing on Dave Weatherall and if paid off as the big man showed a great touch before firing past Kane.

At the other end a great ball from Joel McDonald across the face of goal left Lee Hargan to knock it into a empty net but he slipped and missed the ball completely. After a clearance from a corner Ryan Duffy tried to float the ball back into the box from near his own half only to see it bounce off the crossbar and go out when it looked like it was sneak in the underside.

Barr, Kirgan and Vauls all had half chances to win the game with five minutes to go but Kane was equall to them all. With two minutes left Lee McDonald had one last chance to get a winner but his first touch let him down and Olympic cleared and with that the final whistle blew. Man of the Match: Kyle Gregg (Coleraine Olympic)