Champions pick up where they left off last season with back to back wins

The 2013 – 2014 Hutchinson T|iles Winter League kicked into action on Tuesday 14th August with 15 teams competing for the title.

There were midweek wins for reigning champs Glebe Rangers Old Boys, Berthas FC, Portrush Old Boys, West Bann Athletic, FC Windyhall, The Villagers and FC Crusaders. West Bann, Glebe Rangers and FC Windyhall made it two from two after Saturdays round of fixtures. The Villagers remain unbeaten after they held Hazelbank to a draw. The Taverners and Balnamore both bounced back from midweek defeats with big wins while Finn McCools also picked up their first win of the season on Saturday.

West BA 3 Dunaghy Old Boys 2

Dunaghy took the lead on the quarter hour, somewhat against the run of play with Richard Blair running clear beating one defender and then the Athletic goalkeeper before coolly passing the ball into the net. This goal seemed to settle the visitors. Athletic restored parity just before the break equalising on the 40 minute mark when Phil Stevenson capitalised on a defensive/goalkeeping blunder to make it honours even at the end of the first half.

Dunaghy were quickest out of the blocks regaining the lead two minutes after the restart after a long throw wind assisted went in off a West Bann Athletic defender. Athletic scored a cracker of an equaliser through man of the match Phil Stevenson whose 22 yard strike gave the Dunaghy number one no chance just before the hour mark. Athletic new acquisition Lee Nevin scored an impressive first competitive goal in orange five minutes later to give his side the lead for the first time in the game when he latched onto an Aaron McLelland knock on ten yards out making no mistake with his half volley on the turn. For the last half hour of the game Athletic and Dunaghy more or less cancelled each other out with no chances of note for either team. Man of the Match: Phil Stevenson (West Bann Athletic)

FC Windyhall 2 Portrush OB 0

It was Windyhall who took the lead after 26 minutes Donnell picking up the ball in midfield and shooting from 25 yards out. The shot took a deflection off a Portrush boot and looped over the head of McCullough and into the net. Windyhall could have been further ahead but Donnell, McMullan and Warring all wasted chances. Windyhall did go 2-0 up on the 34th minute. Donnell again bursting through from midfield taking the ball around the goalkeeper only to be brought down. Donnell dusted himself down and placed the penalty into the corner.

Windyhall came back out in the second half determined not to throw away the lead and could have went further ahead. McMullan and Fielding both hitting the bar with good strikes from distance Warring had a effort cleared off the line and McMullan chipped the keeper but the ball landed the wrong side of the post. Portrush went for broke changing formation to 3-4-3 but the Windyhall defence marshalled by Crawford stood firm. Portrush had their only clear chance in the last five minutes but Newman saved well from McAllister and the rebound was put wide. Man of the Match: Steven Donnell (FC Windyhall)

Glebe OB 5 FC Crusaders 3

Glebe Rangers Old Boys entertained near neighbours FC Crusaders in what proved to be a high scoring match, the final score emulating home and away encounters between both sides last season. With the Old Boys dressing room resembling a casualty ward after picking up a number of injuries in their season opener things didn’t improve when Stephen Elder, a cutting edge for Glebe on the right flank, was forced off after only 10 minutes with a groin strain.

James Steele made an unforgettable return to the ranks, notching with his first touch to put the hosts one up after only six minutes. However the visitors struck back in the 21st minute, with the equaliser from an Adam Watson from an elementary cross into the box which wasn’t dealt with by home defence.  Les Nicholl continued his scoring streak with a neat finish before the visitors suffered a blow when McIlreavey was received a straight red two minutes later.  It looked like being a pointless encounter for Crusaders when a fine passing move from the middle of the park saw Paul Gaston provide a touch of class with a measured finish to make the half-time score 3-1 and it appeared they could coast to victory.

However the cheers had barely died down for the home team when FC Crusaders pulled back two quick goals just after half-time.  Two balls into the penalty box bewitched the Old Boys with McCLelland and McLaughlin taking full advantage to make it three all after 49 minutes. With the visitors finding top gear three points were on the horizon until goal scoring mastermind Steele showed yet again he was made of the right stuff. Latching on to a Fulton through ball he lobbed Tosh to restore the Old Boy’s lead before completing his hat-trick in the 68th minute  to make it 5-3. Man of the Match: James Steele (Glebe Rangers Old Boys)

The Villagers 1 Hazelbank FC 1

The first half started with the predictable handbags as usual between these rivals. When play settled down the wind took over and Hazelbank used that advantage well they pressurised every Villagers defender and were dominating throw ins, corners etc without much luck apart from a great save from Best from McClarty’s effort from 20 yards. The Villagers almost nicked one when Hutchinson played MacFarlane through but his chip caught the wind and dragged it wide.

Hazelbank took a deserved lead before the the break with a quickly worked corner that left a tap in for an eager Tosh. The second half was a completely different game in which the Villagers pounded the Hazelbank goal. First Wilson hit the post, Pollock almost equalised twice with a good save and a fantastic effort that had the keeper stranded. Macfarlane had a great half volley saved but from resulting corner Trevor Hutchinson, scored a fantastic header with six minutes to go. The Villagers almost won it late on when Rab Friel’s effort was cleared off the line. Man of the Match: Trevor Hutchinson (The Villagers)

The Taverners 8 Brook Street 1

The home side started the more lively and deservedly took the lead after a fine move was finished by Shane McKee. Brook Street got back into the game when Ryan Duffy equalised from a corner. This just seemed to spur the Taverners on and they retook the lead after a fine finish from O’Boyle. The same player then added to his tally when he scored his second before the half. Early in the second half Kearns added a fourth for the home side and in quick succession Doherty and McKee added two more to make it 6-1. The home side kept the pressure on and with frustration setting in, the visitors lost Paul Duffy to a second yellow card. Taverners then compounded the agony by adding two more before the end from McAleese and Smith. Man of the Match: Shane McKee (Taverners)

Coleraine Olympic 0 Balnamore FC 11

Balnamore bounced back from their midweek defeat to produce a solid performance and a avalanche of goals in this fixture at Rugby Avenue. Andy Heggarty opened the scoring on the seventh minute with a powerful strike after good work from Philip Hanna. Nicky Tweed hit Balnamore’s second a minute later with a delightful chip over keeper Doherty, fed again by Philip Hanna who was having a good game. Heggarty and Tweed both found the net again before half time with neat individual efforts.

After the restart it was more of the same with the visitors attacking constantly, although Coleraine Olympic started to pass the ball much better. This was short lived as Wilsons own goal increased the lead for Balnamore further. Simon Armstrong who battled well, held strong down the right to beat his man and fire past the keeper. Nicky Tweed and Andy Heggarty both completed their hat-tricks with fine finishing from inside the area, again assisted by Hanna and Mc Dowell. Brent Watton also found the net from close range after a good run. Fauls tried to spur his team on, looking for the Olympic front men with probing balls, but the Balnamore defence held firm. Brian McLaughlin beat Doherty with angled drive late on and Willy Corr converted from the penalty spot right at the end after being upended in the box to complete the scoring and give Balnamore their first points.

Finn McCools 2 Ballyrashane FC 1

Both teams started this match a little rusty giving the ball away easily. It was Ballyrashane who struck first when a long ball over the Finns defence stuck to their wide man’s feet putting the away side up. Finns came back with a curling shot from P Moore passing everyone in the process with the Ballyrashane keeper’s view blocked making it one each. The second half opened up but both defences stood firm making it difficult to break down. It was Finns who took the points when Callaghan’s shot from outside the box slotted into the bottom corner. Man of the Match: David McAllister (Ballyrashane)