PSNI 2-1 Armagh City
For the second consecutive week Armagh City were on the wrong end of a heart-breaking defeat, as last week’s controversial loss was followed up by another injury-time penalty decision that was enough to make the blood boil for players, management and supporters alike.
Marty Rice’s young side fought courageously on a difficult day in Belfast against an experienced PSNI outfit, but in the end key decisions went against them and they left empty-handed.
The game got off to a frenetic, but somewhat scrappy, start as both sides struggled to find a rhythm. When Armagh finally got into their stride they found a hesitant home defence on hand, and indeed it was a rather hopeful ball forward that led to the first chance of the game, as confusion between PSNI ‘keeper Wilson and his defence gave Adam Nesbitt what seemed like an empty net to give City the lead. He had the ball nicked away by Mackle as he went to strike home, however, and from the ensuing corner the ball fell to kindly for Gavin Cusack, but his drive rose agonisingly over the crossbar.
Despite forcing several corners City failed to really create many genuine chances as the half wore on, and they paid the price when a deflected free kick by Graham Arthur beat City ‘keeper Sean Morgan to give the hosts a lead against the run of play.
Things got worse for Armagh soon after as, following a heated first spell of play, they were reduced to 10 men after Lukasz Adamczyk and Ultan Lennon were involved in an altercation. The young referee chose to only punish the City defender, apparently for violent conduct, and suddenly the visitors faced an uphill struggle. They continued to look the better side until the half-time whistle went, but again struggled to show any conviction in attack.
City’s efforts were rewarded, however, early in the second half as they equalised in emphatic style. A long clearance by Morgan deceived the PSNI defence and Christopher Maxwell took one touch before rifling a firm left-footed strike high into the net for his first ever goal for the first team. The young winger found himself in shooting range again within moments but on two occasions failed to hit the target as Armagh were again in the ascendancy.
The second half saw City again dominating play until the home manager Jimmy Brown made a pair of substitutions that sparked his side into action. Morgan had only one long range effort by Holden to palm away and then the City ‘keeper was glad to see Adamczyk shoot wide in the box when well placed. Half-chances came and went for both sides, until injury time when PSNI broke forward. The ball arrived at Fry’s feet and he shot towards goal only for the ball to strike Gerard Kerr on the arm. The referee adjudged the hand-ball to be intentional, and Arthur promptly struck home the winner to provide a cruel ending to City’s strong fight-back.
An infuriating day for City, but they can take heart at the level of their performance, even while a man down, and Marty Rice’s side will look to put it behind them next Saturday when they face Belfast-based opposition again as Sport & Leisure Swifts travel to Holm Park.
PSNI: Keith Wilson, Scot McCrory, Shane Brennan, Peter Mackle, Matt Holden, Benjamin Mulgrew, Gary Brown, Mark Hadden (Willie Fry), Lucasz Adamczyk, Graham Arthur, Andy McKnight (Philip May). Subs not used: Gary O’Neil, Patrick Linnig.
Armagh City: Sean Morgan, Dale Montgomery, Ryan McGerrigan, Ultan Lennon, Dara Noonan, Gerard Kerr, Marty Lavery (Matthew Hynds), Liam Cullen, Gavin Cusack, Adam Nesbitt (Barry Quinn), Christopher Maxwell. Subs not used: Sean Mallon, James Cullen, James Nesbitt.