Knockbreda 1-0 Armagh City
City fell to a second consecutive defeat for the first time since November, but can count themselves unlucky not to have come away with a point after a spirited performance against high-flying Knockbreda on Saturday.
The game kicked off in glorious sunshine in east Belfast, with City’s lineup boasting the return of Ultan Lennon, and the recently re-signed Shane Mulgrew, who took his place at the heart of the midfield.
The game got off to a scrappy start with neither side establishing much of a rhythm in the first quarter of an hour, before City upped the ante with some excellent closing down and some nice ball movement of their own.
Neither side managed to create many chances, however, until some excellent work on the Armagh right wing saw Matthew Hynds deliver a beautiful lofted pass to Gavin Cusack who had sprung the Knockbreda defence. With defenders bearing down on him, Cusack opted to volley but couldn’t keep his strike down and the sides went in 0-0 at the break.
Knockbreda manager made his intentions clear, making a pair of half-time substitutes, and the home side quickly got on top of the game. City struggled to get any real possession and were limited to counter-attacking as Knockbreda pushed forward but were consistently thwarted by City’s youthful backline who had an outstanding game, keeping the league’s leading goalscorer Miguel Chines at bay throughout.
Indeed, City keeper Sean Morgan was most busiest defending corners as the home side struggled to get any meaningful attempts on goal. A delightful pass from Cillian Sheridan with the outside of his boot almost put Adam Nesbitt through on goal but Jim McMenamin cleared ahead of him.
Knockbreda’s pressure was evident as City began to concede cheap free-kicks as limbs wearied and in seemed inevitable that the height advantage of the hosts would finally tell. As it turned out, however, for all their ball retention, it was a quick break that was City’s undoing. Sub Sean Mallon seemed to have put Gavin Cusack through for a shot, but he lost the ball and ‘Breda broke the length of the pitch, for sub Daniel Hanna to finish off a neat move with just three minutes remaining.
City frantically searched for an equaliser but in vain as a couple of half chances went a-begging. A cruel loss for Marty Rice’s side who played valiantly throughout but just couldn’t hold out for what would have been an excellent point. The game wasn’t without positives, however, as the young squad showed their mettle and confidence to challenge one of the top teams in the division on their own turf.
Armagh City: Morgan, Montgomery, McGerrigan, Lennon, Noonan, Mulgrew, Sheridan (Grimley), Cullen, Cusack, Nesbitt (Bruce), Hynds (Mallon).