WEST Bann Athletic are celebrating after claiming their first ever silverware following their 1-0 win over Balnamore in the Coleraine Social Club Shield last Friday night.
This was Athletics’ first ever final as a club while Balnamore were looking to win the shield for the second time in three years and the first leg of a knockout cup double into the bargain.
Both teams were struglling to find any real rhythm in the opening quarter of the game with chances at a premium. With the first half on the blow Athletic were awarded a penalty when Matthew McCandless was brought down in the box when played in by Aaron McLelland, however McLelland’s well struck penalty hit the woodwork to leave it honours even at the break.
Athletic started the second half the way they finished the first and nearly found themselves a goal to the good, the ball came out to Aaron McLelland on the edge of the area after a corner, his well struck shot flew through a crowded penalty area with Elder saving well this time with his knees. Athletic introduced Michael Olphert and Phil Stevenson to the fray to freshen things up in attack and it nearly reaped instant reward when Stevenson found himself with the ball at his feet with his back to goal, the Athletic forward swivelled, got his shot off and on target but again Athletic were denied by Elder in the Balnamore nets.
With only 30 seconds left of normal time plus stoppage time Athletic made the breakthrough. A corner was swung in by Olphert with the ball falling kindly for Aaron McLelland who made no mistake when the opportunity presented itself from six yards out. Balnamore pushed in the last couple of minutes for an equaliser but as in the previous 90 minutes they could not breach an inspired West Bann Athletic defence.
With Balnamore pushing forward throwing caution to the wind Athletic nearly took advantage in the dying seconds on the break however Olpherts shot went agonisingly the wrong side of the post to leave it 1-0 at the final whistle to an ecstatic West Bann Athletic FC. Credit to both sets of players who should be very proud of themselves for putting on an exciting, fair and sporting final. Thanks to Coleraine FC and Social Club for the venue, match officials, Chris Patterson, Jacqueline Doherty and Alan McCloskey for their valuable time.
Man of the Match: Peter O’Kane (WBA FC).