Armagh City will face their toughest test of the new season on Saturday when they tackle current Belfast Telegraph Championship One leaders Harland and Wolff Welders.
The Belfast visitors have won three and drawn one of their opening four league matches and, by all accounts, will be tough nuts to crack.
City, on the other hand, struggled early in the season with defeats at Dergview and at home to the PSNI but, in successive weekends, have claimed a championship win away at Lisburn Distillery and travelled to knock Dollingstown out of the Bob Radcliffe Cup.
The Holm Park outfit, however, have recently been strengthened with the return of key squad players, with defender/midfielder Paul Carvill and striker Gavin McFarland both now fighting for first-team places.
Several other players who missed early season games are now back and, with playing-time under their belts, Armagh will be a much tougher proposition from now on.
Certainly, they will need to be at their fighting best this Saturday when the high-flying Harland and Wolff Welders come calling!
The sides last met in Belfast early-season last year when City narrowly lost a competitive League Cup tie by 1-0.
A reverse of that result would be ideal and is certainly not out of the question.
City are now strong in every department but have still not produced the flowing form which saw them swoop to claim the Championship Two title in such fine style last season.
But, if they can produce their best this weekend, then another three league points is well within the squad’s grasp!
Armagh City v Harland and Wolff Welders, Belfast Telegraph Championship One, kick-off 3pm, Holm Park, Armagh. All welcome.
Lisburn Distillery 1-2 Armagh City
After a slow start to the new season, Armagh City got their league campaign properly underway on Saturday with a fine victory against Lisburn Distillery. Manager Marty Rice had a strengthened panel of players to bring to New Grosvenor, with Paul Carvill starting on the left side while striker Gavin McParland was named among the substitutes.
The Eagles got off to a flying start, moving the ball with purpose and looking threatening going forward. Stephen Murray and Shea McGerrigan looked dangerous with their pace and direct play, and that combination quickly paid off with Murray slipping an inviting ball to McGerrigan who coolly finished with his left foot past McBride in the Distillery goal.
Despite several offside calls going against him, McGerrigan’s speed was a constant worry for the home defence throughout the first half. Soon after giving City the lead, the winger found himself contesting a bouncing ball with ‘keeper McBride, with a collision between the pair forcing the ball to break to Ronan O’Hara whose lob just evaded the top corner of the net.
Distillery finally started to come into the game midway through the half after City’s early dominance, and Sean Morgan had to be alert to acrobatically tip Martin Jones’ rasping effort over the crossbar. The home side’s best attacking threat in the opening period came mainly from set pieces, with Morgan looking commanding in the air until a Robbie White challenge forced the ball loose from a corner. City seemed to expect the referee’s whistle to blow, and as Bingham poked the ball goalward O’Hara did well to clear amongst a cluster of City defenders.
Having lost their early momentum City became drawn into a midfield battle, with no real chances of note before the interval. Distillery boss Tommy Kincaid made a pair of substitutions at the break, making clear his disappointment with his side’s first half performance.
Within minutes of the restart the Whites had a free-kick wide on the right wing and as the ball swung in Distillery defender Darren Nixon prodded the ball towards goal and over the stranded Morgan. McAnallen threw himself at the ball and looked to have saved City’s blushes with a hooked clearance, but as Nixon turned away in disappointment the assistant referee quickly indicated that the ball had crossed the line and the home side were on level terms.
The goal seemed to spur Armagh back to life however as they sharpened up their passing game and started to dominate the play once again. McGerrigan and Murray both came into the game once more, with Murray having a golden chance spurned by a heroic challenge by Ciaran Burns. Ultan Lennon then threatened from a corner and Murray fired a low shot wide of the target as the visitors turned the screw on a tiring home defence.
Sensing the opportunity to snatch all three points, Marty Rice made an attacking double substitution that pushed City forward as Philip Donnelly and Gavin McParland replaced O’Hara and McGerrigan. The pair immediately made an impact as Armagh forced a series of set pieces deep in Distillery territory and finally the break-through arrived.
Dale Montgomery’s perfectly flighted inswinging corner from the left was met by a towering leap from Lennon at the back post and he made no mistake with a firm downward header with just 11 minutes remaining.
City refused to sit back on their lead and continued to threaten on the break. Distillery’s only half chances in the dying minutes game from set pieces, but Armagh’s defence stood strong and held out for the victory.
Distillery defender Niall Derry received a late red card for a head-butt on McParland, and City saw out the remaining minutes for a well-deserved three points to move them off the bottom of the Belfast Telegraph Championship 1 table.
Armagh City: Morgan, Montgomery, Carvill, Lennon, McAnallen, Cullen, Moore, Kelly, O’Hara (Donnelly 66 min), S McGerrigan (McParland 66 min), Murray. Unused subs: L Grimley, G Grimley, R McGerrigan.
The start of the new football season means plenty of hard work behind the scenes at Armagh City FC. This started at the weekend when the club hosted a cross-border tournament featuring top youth teams from Belfast and Dublin.
As well as City, representative teams from Linfield, Shelbourne and St Joseph’s YC took part.
This week two of the Eagles rising stars were rewarded for their efforts when picked to join the Northern Ireland Under 16 squad. Conor Larkin and Niall Cassidy were due to line-up in back-to-back internationals against Iceland and Poland!
During ths coming season several important games, including football finals comprising Mid-Ulster teams, have been pencilled in. This follow the completion last year of City’s magnificent all-weather 3G pitch. Shower facilities at Holm Park have also been updated as the committee continues to strive and upgrade the ground at Ardmore. Currently, a number of local teams train at Armagh FC and there is still some time slots available which can be booked by sporting or community groups at reasonable cost. Contact the club or any committee member for details.
While the senior team will have a rest this weekend, there will still be plenty going on in the clubrooms. This Saturday, August 30 – Black Saturday – the bar will be open from 12noon and there will be a chip van in operation throughout the afternoon.
A covered outside area is being created and, it is hoped, visitors to the colourful demonstration will call in for a taste of Armagh City FC hospitality. Free taxi from Orangefield Estate shop from 12.30pm.
The clubrooms continue to open on Sunday afternoons as well, when patrons can enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, watch TV, or play music on the all-around sound system, in comfortable surroundings.
So, why not call in and enjoy the craic.
Armagh City 1 – 2 PSNI
City lost out to PSNI at Holm Park with the same scoreline as their previous encounter just over a week ago, and once again, despite taking the early lead. Earlier the visitors had recorded the same scoreline when dumping the Eagles out of the League Cup at Newforge. The police side also inflicted City’s first home reverse for 23 games as the teams swapped positions at the bottom of the league.
Ultan Lennon put City in the lead when he rose high in the box to head home an inch perfect corner after only 5 minutes. In an opening spell where City were well on top, Lennon almost scored a carbon copy goal a few minutes later, but the ball flashed narrowly wide.
The momentum swung dramatically after City’s initial burst and it was no surprise PSNI levelled in the 27th minute. McWilliams scored a simple tap in after City’s defence botched an attempted clearance from a corner. Moments later Armagh ‘keeper Sean Morgan was at full-stretch to smother a stinging shot after yet another lightening raid from the visitors.
The second half brought a marked improvement from City, with a number of good spells and quite a few good attacks down the left flank. Shea McGerrigan came closest to getting City back on level terms when he hit the post with a great strike from the edge of the box. He also sent in a series of dangerous crosses into the box during the half but Scott McCrory and Barry Moore were excellent at the heart of the PSNI defence and dealt very capably with everything which came their way.
Match Sponsors: MG Leisure Developments
Video highlights courtesy of PSNI Football website:
City team: Morgan, Montgomery, McGerrigan, Lennon, Noonan, Kelly, McAnallen, O’Hara, Donnelly, Murray, McGerrigan.
Subs: Cullen, Grimley, McQuaid, McNamee, Moore.
PSNI FC: Harrison, Gray, Robb, McCrory, Moore, Berry, Anderson, Dobbin, Adamczyk, McDermott, McWilliams.
Subs: McLaughlin, Holden, Kirk, Moody,Brehm
Armagh City will be hoping for swift revenge this Saturday when they play host to the PSNI in a vital Belfast Telegraph Championship One encounter. The police recently inflicted an extra-time 2-1 defeat on the Eagles in their competitive League Cup clash.
The teams know each other well, as both gained promotion to Championship One this season!
Little separates the sides and, in their previous league encounter at the end of last season, City and the PSNI shared the spoils in a six-goal thriller.
The City squad has slowly being getting back to full strength and, at the weekend, were able to include left wing-back, Ryan McGerrigan, and attacking midfielder, Shea McGerrigan, to the team following their one-match suspension.
Cultured central defender Dara Noonan is also poised to return as the Holm Park outfit focus on grabbing their first league win of the season on Saturday.
This is the boost Marty Rice’s outfit need to establish themselves in a higher grade of football this season.
Certainly, the police will prove a really tough test as, traditionally, there is never much between the sides.
The vital Armagh City v PSNI Belfast Telegraph Championship One match gets underway at Holm Park this Saturday, August 23. at 3pm.
A strong local support would be most welcome!