Glebe Rangers Old Boys took a big step towards lifting the Hutchinson Tiles Winter League on Saturday when they took the points in a tight game against fellow contenders Berthas FC.
Hillview are now their nearest challengers and currently lie six points off the pace at the top. Mountview moved into third place with a good win at home to FC Macosquin while Finn McCools continued their good run of form with a fine away win against Dunaghy. FC Windyhall and Balnamore shared the spoils in their game while there was also wins for Hazelbank and The Villagers.
Glebe Rangers Old Boys 2 Berthas FC 1
In a prelude to their upcoming Cup semi-final Glebe Rangers Old Boys and Bertha’s met in the league at Megaw Park on Saturday morning and, as earlier in the season, it was a closely fought affair. With ‘Midget’ Patterson unavailable, Paul Holmes made yet another return from injury, this time in an unfamiliar role up front in the Old Boys’ only change from last week. Bertha’s made a flying start to the game when the impressive Lee Biggart seized on to McLaughlin’s flick and produced an excellent volleyed finish past Allen with two minutes on the clock.
Bertha’s were in the ascendancy and should have doubled their lead but Pollock miscued when well-placed. As the half wore on Glebe came more into the game and were rewarded when Blair was brought down inside the box and Alan McBride converted. Despite the efforts of both sides the half concluded with honours even.
The frantic pace continued with the Old Boys making the better start to the second half. Blair continued his recent good form with another fine display whilst Bertha’s were well-served by Drake, the dangerous Hanna and Andrew Minihan, who produced a man of the match display in defence. The vital goal came when Les Nicholl was felled inside the box and McBride stepped up to notch his second penalty of the game.
Bertha’s threw caution to the wind as they sought the equaliser, with Caldwell hitting the bar with a half volley, Glebe also came close when Aaron Stewart hit the post. The game ended with a narrow victory for the home side with both teams deserving credit for a fine advert for the league. Man of the Match: Andrew Minihan (Bertha’s)
Mountview FC 4 FC Macosquin 2
Mountview entertained FC Macosquin at Rugby Avenue on Saturday and played out a game much tighter than the final score line suggested. Mountview took the lead in the fifth minute following a corner when Taggart got on the end of a goal mouth scramble to prod the ball home. For the following 15 minutes Mountview took control but Macosquin got themselves back into the game when a ball crossed into the box eluded the back line for McGuiness to glance his header past the stranded keeper.
This brought the game to life with Macosquin having more than their fair share of possession and it paid dividends when they took the lead just before the break, Conway finishing from outside the box. Mountview equalised when good work from Barton released Daryl Willis who played Parsons in and after he rounded the keeper, squared the ball for Martin to tap in at the back post.
Mountview took the lead when Gaston played Barton in who split the defence for Martin to slot past the advancing keeper. In the dying minutes Macosquin pushed hard for an equaliser and were unlucky when an effort rebounded off the crossbar. However, Mountview completed the scoring when Daryl Willis fired home from inside the box
FC Windyhall 2 Balnamore FC 2
Windyhall entertained Balnamore at Rugby avenue on Saturday morning and by current form Balnamore would have been expecting to take all three points. Balnamore started off brighter moving the ball well in midfield and it paid off after nine minutes. Good work between Kelly and Heggarty released David McDowell one on one with Newman in the home goal and he made no mistake to put his side one up. Windyhall though felt that the goal shouldnt have stood as McDowell looked to have strayed offside.
Windyhall started to move the ball better themselves but with Balnamore having the extra man in midfield they just couldnt find the final pass. The home side made a change to the formation and it seemed to work. Donnell bringing an excellent save from Elder in the Balnamore goal.
Into the second half and good work between Donnell and Collins put Johnston through on goal, although the angle was tight Johnston put the ball between Elders legs. Balnamore came straight back at Windyhall and won a corner in the 55th minute. The home side failed to clear the second ball and Simon Armstrong fired home with the help of a deflection of a Windyhall leg.
The game tightened up and it looked as if the next goal in the game would be the last. In the last 10 minutes Windyhall were the team on the front foot. With 83 minutes on the clock Windyhall won a free kick just inside the Balnamore half. Robert Sweeney played the ball in and with the help of a deflection the ball landed right at the feet of Donnell. Elder saved his first effort but the Windyhall man bounced straight back up to roll the ball into an empty net. Man of the Match: Stephen Donnell (FC Windyhall)
Dunaghy Old Boys 0 Finn McCools 1
The first half was a tight encounter between these two sides each playing attacking football looking for the three points. It was down to some good goalkeeping by both teams that kept the match scoreless for some time. The midfield and defence of both teams were not giving too much away leaving the strikers hitting from long range. The second half was much of the same with both teams keeping it tight until Dunaghy started to dominate midway through. Finns battled hard to get back into the game and they got the reward with Callaghan slotting it passed the Dunaghy keeper to make it 1-0. Dunaghy pushed for the draw with some good chances but it was Finns who held out for a good three points. Man of the Match: Ally Dobbin( Finn McCools)
Ballyrashane FC 1 Hazelbank FC 8
James Diver opened the scoring straight from the kick off as Crawford released Ciaran Wilson and his cut back found the unmarked Diver who fired home. Wilson made it two on 10 minutes as he coolly side footed past the McClenahan. Johnny McIlreavy got in on the act on 30 minutes as he volleyed home spectacularly from 25 yards.
The front man was unlucky not to score with a header soon after, but he didn’t have long to wait for his second as he side footed in Alcorn’s pass on 38 minutes.
Steven McCrory was rewarded for his hard work after the restart start as he chsed down a slack back pass before poking home.
Brian Alcorn was pushed into a more advanced role and remarkably he picked up his second hat-trick in three weeks. On 71 and 79 minutes Trigger headed in from close range after Wilson had picked him out on both ocassions. And he grabbed the third from the penalty spot after he had been upended in the box.
Credit to Ballyrashane they kept battling to the end and David Freeman picked up a consolation in the dying minutes after some poor marking by the visitors. Man of the Match: Mark Hemphill (Hazelbank FC)
The Villagers 2 Coleraine Olympic 0
On a cool day in Castlerock, The Villagers comfortably defeated Olympic. After having pressure with no reward the hosts finally took the lead on 19 minutes when Pollock’s superb cross was met with a brilliant header by Lee Peden. He almost made it 2-0 but his effort was well saved. Rab Friel though did make it 2-0 on 36 minutes with a superb low drive into the bottom corner.
Olympic kept battling to their credit but could not find a way through a well organised Villagers defence.
In the second half the villagers should have extended their lead with MacFarlane guilty of missing a hat-trick of great chances. Finley almost made it 3-0 but a good save by the Olympic keeper kept the score at 2-0. Man of the Match: Rab Friel (The Villagers)