Armagh City 0-1 Ballymoney United
A disputed penalty-kick deep into extra-time sent Armagh City to a sickening defeat against visitors Ballymoney United at Holm Park on Saturday.
The spot-kick in the 94th minute was dispatched in style by Gerard Gillan, giving City ‘keeper Sean Morgan no chance. This decisive strike was a bitter pill for City to swallow, especially as they were the more dominant side throughout long periods of the match.
But Armagh’s inability to convert their goal-scoring chances came back to haunt them late in the game!
City pressed from the start and left-sided winger Chris Maxwell created a couple of early openings against a less than impressive United outfit.
After 15 minutes Gerard Kerr just failed to give Armagh the lead when he spurned an effort close to goal.
And, three minutes later, Gavin Cusack fired in a superb cross from the right but Adam Nesbitt’s diving six-yard headed effort flew over the opposition crossbar.
Armagh almost took the lead on 35 minutes when a Kerr header seemed destined for the corner of the net but Ballymoney full-back Mark McKane cleared off the goal-line to save his side.
Just before this effort United had their best chance of the opening half when Liam Kearney was first to react in the Armagh box but just dragged his scuffed shot into the side-netting.
Armagh continued on the offensive and Marty Lavery was unlucky not to have reaped the rewards for two magnificent mazy runs towards the end of the half.
After the scoreless opening period both sides had plenty to play for after the break.
But, surprisingly, Armagh went into their shell and allowed Ballymoney to dictate long passages of play.
The visitors were always dangerous from set-plays and they used the long throw-in ploy to good effect. Kearney was particularly busy and was at the heart of all Ballymoney’s attacking moves.
However, just when it looked like the game would finish with the points shared, the outcome was turned on its head with the penalty award.
Another long throw-in from the right was flicked on by a United player into the six-yard box. As an Armagh defender cleared, an onrushing opponent threw himself towards the ball, claiming contact to his head from his opponent’s boot.
The ref agreed and awarded a penalty for dangerous play. The spot-kick was easily converted.
With the score coming so late in the match there was no chance for City to recover and, once again, they were beaten in the latter stages of a vital match.
This was a sickening scorline for Armagh who certainly deserved to take a share of the spoils.
However, they may well reflect on the final 15 minutes of the match when they allowed United to boss the midfield and subsequently create chances and apply unneccessary pressure.
While City will rue this latest defeat, they can take comfort from the display of their youthful back-four, with Dale Montgomery, Ultan Lennon, Dara Noonan and Ryan McGerrigan again the pick of the squad.
Things will not get any easier for Armagh this Saturday, March 10, when they travel to play the PSNI in Belfast in another Championship Two encounter.
Armagh City: Sean Morgan, Dale Montgomery, Ryan McGerrigan, Ultan Lennon, Dara Noonan, Gavin Cusack (y/c, Stephen Murray on 88 (y/c)), Marty Lavery, Liam Cullen, Gerard Kerr (y/c, Sean Mallon on 87), Adam Nesbitt, Chris Maxwell (Gareth Grimley on 76). Subs not used: John Prentice, Benny O’Hea.
Ballymoney Utd: Brian Moore, Mark McKane, Mark Demsey, Chris Wilkinson, Gareth Hill, Hugh Og Boyle, Francis McKenna (y/c), Liam Kearney, Benny McGarry, Gerafrd Gillan, Ian Christie (y/c, Daniel Laverty on 75). Subs not used: Duane Scott, Gavin Gilmore.