Another Friday night at Hanwood against our challengers for the league Loughside. This had all the hallmarks of a tough fixture.
With two of our normal starting eleven out, Brandon McFerran was working & Edward Muldrew away to watch his beloved West Ham. So debuts were given to Travis Jamison on the right side of central midfield & Ryan McKittrick on the left wing.
We started the match very brightly and should have been two up in the first 10 minutes. Then in the 11th minute the ball was sent into the box and Noah Crenshaw's attempt came of the crossbar. It was looking like another one of those games where we would have all the chances but fail to score. The unusual formation of 3-5-2 was working well and Loughside were finding it hard to cope with the five man midfield and the two up front as we kept going forward but no end product. Then in the 22nd minute against the run of play we found ourselves 1:0 behind with a good strike that Jai couldn't get to. The boys picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and got stuck in keeping the pressure on Loughside and that pressure payed off in the 29th minute when we grabbed the equaliser, Matthew Guest sent over the corner that was cleared by the Loughside defence only as far as Jack Patterson who sent the ball back in for Reece Atkinson to get on the end off and put it in the net, 1:1 game on. This gave the boys the lift they needed to believe they could win this match. As we continued to dominate the first half with Jai Sykes in our goal having very little to do as the back three of Jack Patterson, Matthew Guest & Jordan Mulholland were in superb form coping with everything that came their way. The pressure was starting to rattle the Loughside team and in the 32nd minute we went into the lead. Again it came from a corner Matthew Guest sent the corner over and Noah Crenshaw rose to head the ball into the net, 1:2 RABA. Our midfield was dictating the game with the centre trio of Noah Crenshaw, Reece Atkinson and Travis Jamison bossing the middle of the pitch, Ryan Hannah on the right wing & Ryan McKittrick on the left wing bombing up and down their wings causing allsorts of problems for the Loughside defence. Lets not forget the front two of Stuart Hannah with his pace was buzzing in and out of the defence & Joel Hill with his size and strength was a hand full as well.
HALF TIME: 1 . 2
Half time team talk was to keep the pressure on and to work hard and close Loughside down.
The second half got of to a flyer when we took the centre which was passed around then found its way to Jack Patterson on the right, he went forward with menace skipping passed to Loughside players as he released the ball to Stuart Hannah he was taken out, the Referee played the advantage and Stuart sent a perfect pass through to Ryan McKittrick who calmly slotted the ball into the back of the net for his first goal in the Ards colours on his debut, 1:3 RABA. With a two goal cushion Reece Atkinson was doing his Captain roll keeping the boys motivated and calm to keep control of the game. The only real danger to Jai's goal was coming from the Loughside sub with his power full long through ins but the boys were coping with them well, although they did have the ball in our net it was the through in that went straight in without anyone touching it. We nearly had a fourth when Ryan McKittrick hit his shot that came off the crossbar in the last minute of the match. The referee indicated there would be two minutes of added time but Reece Atkinson & Ryan Hannah saw that out between them getting the ball in the corner to see time through.
FULL TIME: 1 . 3
Boys by far your best performance of the season every single one off you played your part and some great football was played. Well done everyone 3 points closer to winning the league with to games to go. Come on the wee RABA#
team played some quality football so another 3 points on the board with 2 games to go superb displays all over the pitch.
Great team performance lads controlled game from start to finish.
Well done boys
Ards FC WELL DONE TONIGHT GUYS
Such a match and ending!:D
Well played lads
Well done tonight the league is ours now!