NAFL Premier League.
Venue: The Showground.
Killyleagh YC 0 Ards Rgs 1.
Report by Chris Hagan.
Killyleagh were outgunned in this Premier Section clash at The Showgrounds on Saturday.
The win moves Jackie Kerr’s Rangers team to the top of the table and the YC could have few complaints after a game in which they were outworked and largely second best all over the pitch.
Both teams were far from full strength although Killyleagh manager Paul Sharvin suffered an additional setback before kick-off when Niall Walsh pulled up in the warm-up, giving influential midfielder Darren McConnell a quicker than expected return after three weeks out.
There was an explosive start to the game when Ards were awarded a penalty after just three minutes when Declan McComiskey was adjudged to have fouled flying winger Ryan Ennis,
Rangers keeper David Ferguson came the full length of the pitch to take the spot kick but his powerful shot was well saved by his opposite number in the YC goals, Aaron Carberry.
Five minutes later Carberry produced an outstanding save to deny Ryan Ennis as the visitors’ all action style and high press pinned Killyleagh deep into their own half. The home side were struggling to cope with the movement of the Rangers’ attack and the Ennis brothers in particular, with Jamie Sharvin making more than one timely intervention.
It was the 26th minute before they produced their first serious effort with Jack Sharvin’s ambitious free kick. Within a minute the lively Mark Armstrong went agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock. Bursting through from midfield, his shot shaved the post.
Ferguson then redeemed his penalty miss with an outstanding save after fine work involving Keegan Rice and Jack Sharvin
But the half ended with Ards still very much on top, with Phil Simpson missing the best of their chances as Killyleagh struggled with the long throw and Newberry’s influence from midfield. They were fortunate to go in on level terms with their man of the match, Jamie Sharvin, halting yet another fine run from Neil Ennis.
The pattern continued at the start of the second half although, just short of the hour mark, it was Killyleagh who produced their best move of the game. Rice and Ethan Davidson combined, and Conor McCarron evaded his marker Jamie Patterson for the first time, only to plant his header inches too high over the bar.
Ards then went straight down the field and made the breakthrough. Phil Simpson with a towering header to finish off Ennis’ pinpoint cross, giving Carberry no chance in the 59th minute.
Killyleagh showed some character after this setback and a neat move ended in a super block on a McCarron attempt in the 64th minute.
Five minutes later McConnell and Rice linked and McCarron did well to take it down with one foot, and shoot with the other, but Ferguson gratefully gathered the shot.
The visitors had two late chances with Simpson’s free hitting a post off the Killyleagh wall and then Armstrong ran the length of the pitch but was carefully shepherded away from goal by an exposed Carberry.
The YC were reduced to 10 men when Rice was shown a second yellow card.
Remarkably after so much possession and such attacking endeavour, Rangers almost threw it away right at the death when Ferguson was forced to save McCarron’s 86th minute shot after good approach work from McComiskey and Barry Walsh.
This was only the third time Killyleagh have failed to score at home in the league since May 2018.