Armagh City 2 Ards 2
(Ards win 5-4 on penalties)
A GALLANT Armagh City bowed out of the JJB Irish Cup at Holm Park on Saturday after a rip-roaring fourth round tie against Ards.
The sides were deadlocked at 2-2 after full and extra-time and the match outcome was eventually decided by the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
Unfortunately, City captain Liam Cullen blasted his effort over the crossbar and the visitors scored all their spot-kicks to run out 5-4 winners.
This was a bitter pill for Armagh to swallon after the team had given their all in a pulsating tie which was in the balance throughout.
At the start, however, it looked as if the runaway Championship One leaders Ards would easily take the spoils.
For they raced into a 15 minute lead when a Kyle McDowell cross was headed into the roof of the City net by his namesake, Paul.
And, just before the half-hour, Ards doubled their lead when Kyle McDowell headed home another cross from the right at the back-post.
Armagh, however, did not panic and they came roaring back into the match with a magnificent Paul Carville 25-yard free-kick on 34 minutes which left opposition ‘keeper Graeme McKibben beaten all ends up.
This score settled City down and, just before the break, they forced a deserved equaliser.
A deep cross from the left by Micheal McKenna was met at the back-post by Gareth Grimley and his downward header again defeated the hapless McKibben.
After the interval it was Ards who again started the better and they gave an early warning when Kyle McDowell shot just over the top from 10-yards.
But, as the half progressed, Armagh became increasingly confident and almost went in front with an Ultan Lennon header following a corner-kick.
Then McKenna unleashed a goalbound 20-yard thunderbolt which McKibben just managed to push away to safety.
At this stage City held the upperhand and they went close again when another well struck shot from Gavin Cusack flew over the Ards crossbar.
The visitors were under severe pressure in the final quarter and during a goalmouth melee an Armagh player seemed to be flattened by McKibben with a push on the back.
But all calls for a penalty were dismissed by Augher whistler Wesley Campbell who also rejected a second appeal for a City spot-kick.
In the final few minutes of normal time both side pushed for a winner but the game was deadlocked at 2-2 and extra-time ensued.
There were limited chances throughout this period, although Ards did finish strongly and it took a sensational goal-saving tackle by Armagh’s Ryan McGerrigan to take the match into the penalty shoot-out.
Although just losing out narrowly in the end, all the Holm Park players can be proud of their contributions.
Catching the eye on the day were Lennon and McGerrigan in defence, midfielders Cullen and McKenna, and the rampant Grimley up front.
City will be withoug a competitive match until Saturday, December 29, when they travel to play Banbridge Town in Championship Two.
Armagh City: Sean Morgan, Dale Montgomery, Ryan McGerrigan (Barry Quinn on 113), Ultan Lennon, Johnny Walker (y/c), Micheal McKenna (y/c), Gareth Grimley (Matthew Hynds on 105), Liam Cullen, Stephen Murray (Barry Quinn on 115), Gavin Cusack, Paul Carville. Subs not used: Luke Grimley, Mark Davidson.
Ards: Graeme McKibben, Craig Hall, Kris Pike, David Cully, Darren Nixon, Ben Browne (y/c) (Paul Dixon on 45), James Cully (y/c), Neil Dougan, Paul McDowell (Jimmy McIlhagga 60), Stephen Doyle, Kyle McDowell. Subs: Craig McMillan, Ross Arthur, Ryan Moffett.
Referee: Mr Wesley Campbell, Augher.
City Miss Out In Cup Thriller
Armagh City 2 Ards 2