Title race blown open

Saturday 11 February could prove a defining day in deciding where the Hutchinson Tiles Winter League title will be heading.

This is because Mountview FC took the scalp of Glebe Rangers Old Boys and coupled with Macosquin Villages win against Balnamore means if Davy McNeill’s Macosquin Village win their game in hand they will top the table.

Both teams still have to play each other in the league and also meet in the preliminary round of the Cup this weekend.

Back to the league and it was single goal from Scott Frazer that proved enough to take the points against Glebe Rangers in what was their first defeat of the season.

Elsewhere, a late FC Macosquin goal gave them their first win over Berthas while Hazelbank took the points, winning by the odd goal in five against The Taverners. There was also comfortable wins for Hillview and West Bann Athletic while The Villagers and Finn McCools battled to an exciting 3-3 draw in the remaining game.

Glebe Rangers Old Boys 0 Mountview FC 1

Mountview came to this game knowing that a win was vital if they wanted to stay in the title chase.

In the opening minutes, however, it was the home side who almost took the lead. Hesitation in the visitors defence allowed Steele an early opportunity, but the veteran striker saw his effort deflect off Irwin.

The home side continued to dominate and laid siege to the Mountview goal. McBride had two glorious chances to open the scoring but blasted over on both occasions. Steele was next to waste an opportunity when he too blasted over from inside the box.

McCurdy then went close but his fierce drive from outside the box, brought the best out of McLaughlin, who dived full stretch to turn the ball past the upright. Steele then thought he had opened the scoring when he lifted the ball over the advancing keeper. Unfortunately, for the striker Irwin had got back and managed to clear off the line.

The deadlock was eventually broken after 25 minutes. Doherty eluded the challenges off two Glebe players on the left before whipping a cross into the box. The ball looked like going straight to Allen, but Fraser made a great run and got their first to head home.

The home side pushed for an equaliser but found the Mountview rearguard in determined mood.

The second half continued in the same vein with the home side enjoying plenty of possession and the visitors relying on the counter attack. Ten minutes after the restart, though, and Mountview should’ve doubled their lead.

Doherty, however, fired wide when finding himself one on one with Allen after leaving Blair chasing shadows at the half way line. McCurdy and Greer continued to pull the strings in the midfield, but for all their possession the home side rarely troubled McLaughlin in the visitors goal.

With the home side now committing more men forward, Mountview began to find more gaps to exploit on the counter. First Fraser looked like adding to the score line after another fine through ball from Doherty.

However, Bellingham got back to clear the danger. Wills was next to go close, but his shot rifled off the crossbar with Allen well beaten.

Martin then blasted over from inside the box. These missed opportunities almost cost the visitors as once again the home side laid siege to the Mountview goal. However, poor finishing and resolute defending meant the visitors held on to take all three points. Man of the Match: Raymond Taggart (Mountview)

Macosquin Village 4

Balnamore FC 1

After four weeks without a game it was a welcome relief to the Macosquin players that this game went ahead, but their lack of minutes on the pitch was showing in the early stages of the match as Balnamore dominated from the outset.

This domination paid off after only five minutes when Simon Armstrong put them in the lead after some neat work on the wing from Ryan Maddison.

As the first half progressed the home side began to find their feet, playing some neat football in midfield although Stewart failed to convert on a couple of occassions when well placed in the box.

However Macosquin grabbed an equaliser with a huge slice of luck on 30 minutes when Chris McNeill’s back post cross was somehow volleyed into his own goal by Balnamore left back Noel Halliday.

Five minutes into the second half Macosquin took a deserved lead when Stewart beat his man on the edge of the box to drill into the bottom left corner. The home side continued to dominate following this goal but failed to find a third goal, and had debutant Tosh in goal to thank for maintaining their advantage with some excellent saves in one on one situations.

They then grabbed their third goal through Adam Clark who slotted home from a tight angle after some poor keeping from the Balnamore stopper. Three then became four in the dying stages when Connor’s miss hit cross found its way into the top corner leaving Corr in goals with no chance.

Macosquin saw out the game comfortably and grabbed a valuable three points in the title race. Man of the Match: Darren Stewart (MVFC)

FC Macosquin 2 Berthas FC 1

Berthas have always been a bogey side for Macosquin. In all their matches the Quins have never recorded a win. On Saturday this would all change though. Declan McGahon fired the hosts in front with a great strike. Bertha’s fought back though and Minihan levelled things up.

But FC Macosquin finally put their jinx behind them as Campbell crossed for Liam McGuinness to head home.

Man of the Match: Mark Mearns (FC Macosquin)

Hazelbank FC 3 The Taverners 2

Both teams started this game with same plan, to push forward and get an early lead. The opening exchanges, although somewhat scrappy, were contested with full commitment, Smith and Greene having to work hard to get a grip off Baird and Doherty,

Hazelbank always carried a threat from their wide players Diver and Sheppard both getting involved early. As the game was beginning to open up, both sets of players were scrapping for every loose ball and the counter attack was on.

The opening goal coming from a corner after good work by Diver forcing the save from his well struck shot, Mark Crawford rose well and got good contact on the header under pressure from Mooney, Adams in nets managed to parry it but Colin McClarty was on it first to poke home,

Colin soon made it two with Diver the provider robbing the full back and crossing to Colin unmarked at the back post to head home, Tavemers missed the chance to pull it back from the restart after Crawford was adjudged of pulling down Thompson. But Baird pushed the spot kick wide of the target.

Hazelbank were unlucky not to make it 3-0 soon after as Sheppard’s thunderbolt free kick beat the keeper but crashed off the bar and away to safety.

Barry Greene also hit the woodwork just before the break.

Taverners upped the pressure after the restart and they were rewarded with a goal as McKay volleyed home from Kelly’s clearance.

Hazelbank restored their two-goal advantage soon after as he hooked the ball in from a corner.

Johnathan McIlreavey came on for his debut for Hazelbank and almost made it four, but the keeper saved well from his header.

Sub Mark Connolly set up a tense final few minutes for the hosts as he ghosted in to slot home for the Taverners with 10 minutes to go.

McKay thought he had earned his side a point in the dying minutes as he powered a shot towards the far corner, but Crawford produced an excellent save to tip it around the post at full stretch.

Man of the Match: Mark Boorman (Hazelbank)

Hillview FC 4 Somerset FC 0

Hillview took the lead in the 25th minute. Frazer latched onto the ball and rounded the keeper to score. A good run from Fillis soon after provided the home side an opportunity to extend their lead. The winger was scythed down in the box and Rab Sweeney stepped up to make it two from the spot.

Kirgan made three just before half time. His sublime lob from 18 yards out gave the keeper no chance. Hillview had a few chances to extend their lead early in the second half, but Frazer was denied on a couple of occasions by the Somerset keeper who was in fine form.

Fillis picked up a well deserved goal to compete the scoring. Good play by Frazer and McCrellis and the Hillview winger burst through and drilled the ball into the bottom right corner. Man of the Match: Robert Sweeney (Hillview)

The Villagers 3 Finn McCools 3 This was a great game of football played on a lovely early spring day in Castlerock. The Villagers almost took the lead early on but Shirlow could not capatilise on poor kick out from Finns keeper Henderson and headed wide. On eight minutes it was 1-0 Villagers, when MacFarlane’s shot was parried out to Shirlow, who made no mistake this time.

On 15 minutes McCallum equalised with a well taken goal against the run of play, Worse was to follow for the home side just two minutes later when a scrappy second was conceded, Parke the scorer. MacFarlane, Friel and shirlow all came close before Shirlow levelled it with an incredible back heal flick volley from Ryan Pollock’s cross, a brilliant finish.

The second half was quieter with any chances going to the home team, But Taylor bundled home on 78 minutes with a suspected hand to put finns 3-2 up.

With a minute to go it looked like the points would be going to the visitors, but Davie Pollock had other ideas and he picked out Shirlow to complete his hat-trick.

A great advert for the hutchinson tiles league this match! Man of the Match: Ryan Shirlow (The Villagers)

Coleraine Olympic 1 West Bann Athletic 7

West Bann Athletic took all three points on offer with this victory over Coleraine Olympic. Martin Fleming bagged a hat trick and was man of the match against his former club.

James Penny gave Olympic a glimmer of hope when his 40-yard shot beat Jones in the West Bann Athletic goals. Further goals from Michael Olphert, Martin Pancott and two wonder strikes from Chris Shirlow and Olympic old boy Glen Campbell made it West Bann Athletic 7 Coleraine Olympic 1 on a day were Athletic were rarely troubled. Man of the Match: Martin Fleming (West Bann Athletic)

Saturday 18 February

Ballyrashane v Dunaghy Old Boy’s Ballysally 2

Brook Street v Taverners FC Crescent 3

FC Macosquin v Hazelbank Rugby Avenue 2 Prelim KO Cup

Finn McCool’s v Hillview FC Bushmills

Glebe Rangers Old Boys v Macosquin Village Riada 2 Prelim KO Shield

Mountview FC v Coleraine Olympic Rugby Avenue 3

Villagers FC v Bertha’s FC Castlerock

West Bann Athletic v Somerset Rugby Avenue 1