The bookies have all but paid out on Glebe Rangers Old Boys winning this seasons Hutchinson Tiles league title after Saturday’s round of results.
Their narrow victory over last years champions Portrush Old Boys means they have the title in their sites and having only dropped three points all season, look unlikely to let things slip form here.
Millburn FC and Berthas FC kept up their faint hopes with tight wins over Ballyrashane and Dunaghy Old Boys respectively. West Bann Athletic lost out to the odd goal in five against Hazelbank while Balnamore won by the same scoreline against Coleraine Olympic. In the remaining game FC Windyhall took a good three points away to Finn McCools.
Portrush Old Boys 2
Glebe Rangers Old Boys 3
Portrush hosted Glebe at Ruby Avenue in what turned out to be yet another of the close encounters which have been characteristic of meetings between these two sides over the years.
The home side were on top from the off with Newton and Doherty to the fore, ably supported by veteran Parsons and deservedly took the lead through McLaughlin in the 25th minute. In their first decent passage of play Glebe equalised as Sheppard pounced on a loose ball inside the box and half-time arrived with no further addition to the scoreboard.
Ports continued to press in the second period but it was the visitors who took the lead when stalwart DJ McBride headed home a Campbell corner and Sheppard made it 3-1 with a fine finish after 73 minutes. Portrush reduced the arrears when McLaughlin slotted home his second and, although the home side continued to press until the final whistle, they were unable to find a way through to give Glebe another valuable three points. Man of the Match: Andy Sheppard (Glebe Rangers Old Boys)
Ballyrashane FC 0
Millburn FC 2
The first half was a largely forgettable affair with neither side really troubling the keepers.
Millburn suffered a blow at the start of the second half as they were reduced to ten men. But it was the visitors who opened the scoring as substitute McDonald ran on to a Law pass and finished well.
Five minutes later McDonald helped on another Law pass to Cahoonand he lobbed the keeper to make it two.
Ballyrashane pushed hard in the closing stages, but the Millburn defence stood firm.
Man of the Match: W.Moffet (Millburn)
Berthas FC 3
Dunaghy Old Boys 2
The hosts suffered an early blow as Ricky Blair controlled the ball inside the box, showed good strength and skill to turn his man before firing into the net.
Berthas had been looking ropey at the back but had no issues going forward and were creating chances and finally took one after the half hour mark when McGarvey slipped in Stewart who found his strike partner Biggart, who slotted home.
Before the end of the half Dunaghy regained the lead when Mark Blair found space down the left to cross for Paul Robinson and he couldn’t miss from three yards. The second half was quite open with both teams better going forward than defending.
It was Berthas who drew level when McGarvey towered above everyone to head home MacAulay’s free kick. Berthas made a couple of changes with Manager Chris Patterson making his first appearance in over a year from a leg break. He made a happy return when Ricky Pollock popped up at the back post to strike home the defenders cross. Man of the Match: Darren McGarvey (Berthas FC)
West Bann Athletic 2
Hazelbank FC 3
Hazelbank produced a storming second half comeback to secure all three points over West Bann Athletic.
The hosts started off the strongest of the two teams as a depleted Hazelbank side tried to find their feet. West Bann broke the deadlock midway through the first half as McKeever could only flick on Lee Nevin’s through ball into the path of Dylan Neill, who slotted past Crawford. The home side were given the perfect opportunity to double their advantage minutes later as Mark Crawford was adjudged to have fouled Neill in the box. Nevin stepped up but his attempted dinked penalty was saved by Steven Crawford in the visitors goal.
Colin McClarty was unlucky with an effort at the other end before Aaron McClelland headed home Nevin’s corner just before half time to seemingly put his side in control. Within minutes of the restart Neill broke free and teed McClelland up with a chance to seal the win, but with the goal at his mercy he somehow shot wide.
This spurred Hazelbank on and within minutes they were level. First Martin Smyth expertly volleyed home from close range after West Bann failed to clear a corner, and then Jimmy Smyth kept his cool to fire in from close range from McClarty’s pass. The hosts were reeling and they were hit further as from another corner the again couldn’t clear and Martin Smyth blasted in to complete an remarkable comeback.
Lee Nevin almost drew the side’s level with 15 minutes to go as he broke the offside trap. His shot was partially blocked by keeper Crawford and Martin McCrory did well to hook the loose ball off the line. And right on full time Mark Crawford made a superb goal line header to deny Nathan Black. Man of the Match: Jimmy Smyth (Hazelbank)
Coleraine Olympic 2
Balnamore FC 3
Simon Armstrong opened the scoring early on, latching onto the end of Lee Kelly’s free kick.
Brent Dobbin made it two with a calm finish at the back post. John Sweeny brought the Coleraine men back into the game before half time when his corner curled in.
Lee Kelly got on the score sheet with a excellent effort that found the net from outside the area. Balnamore were coasting but took their foot off the pedal and let Olympic get another, this time Ryan McCrudden finding the net with a well struck shot. Man of the Match: David Mc Dowell (Balnamore FC)
Finn McCools 0
FC Windyhall 2
A depleted Windyhall side kept the hosts at bay during the first half with McVey marshalling the defence well.
The deadlock was finally broken on 70 minutes when a John Sweeney corner from the right was met by Windyhall’s Trevor Hutchinson ‘s towering header.
Finns best chance came when Windyhall’s Hutchinson headed against his own post but Newman was quick to gather and launch the ball to Tosh who fired home. Men of the Match: David Cochrane Jnr & Nigel McVey (FC Windyhall)