Queen’s University 2-4 Armagh City
Armagh City kicked off the Championship 2 season with a win in Belfast on Saturday, taking all three points after relinquishing an early two goal lead. The young City squad signalled their intent for the season ahead with a determined effort that probably should have resulted in a more comfortable scoreline for Marty Rice’s side. Armagh started the game in electric fashion, taking the game to their hosts from the kick-off with an exciting attacking style. Missing a trio of players through suspension, Marty Rice chose to start Dale Montgomery in a more advanced position on the right wing. He wasted no time in acclimatising to role, giving left full-back Byrne a torrid time, and opened the scoring inside 5 minutes. Philip Donnelly intercepted a Queen’s pass on the halfway line and, driving straight towards the home goal, spotted Montgomery in space who wasted no time dispatching a neat 15 yard shot into the bottom corner past ‘keeper Brown.
Last year’s leading scorer Stephen Murray soon found himself through on goal, but this time Brown managed to take enough off the ball to allow a defender time to clear off the line, and Shea McGerrigan had a great chance minutes later after further good work by Montgomery and Donnelly, but Brown saved.
The relentless attacks continued as Queen’s had no answer for City’s speed and movement. McGerrigan flashed a superb shot just wide of the post after floating into a central position and the lead was finally doubled after 20 minutes when the left winger unselfishly passed to Murray who opened his account for the season with a low finish into the far corner.
At this stage it seemed like the young Armagh side might run riot, but the intensity of the opening period seemed to take its toll as a scrappier game ensued with the home side finally starting to get a foothold in the game. After forcing a series of set pieces in the City half, the students were given a lifeline before half-time when midfielder Mark Prenter latched on to a breaking ball and his volley soared into the top corner of the net from 25 yards, giving Sean Morgan no chance.
Queen’s regrouped at half-time, adapting to negate City’s threat over the top, and Armagh struggled to get the same quality of possession they enjoyed early in the game. On the hour mark, all of City’s good work was undone as QUB took the direct route to goal. Goalkeeper Declan Brown unleashed a monstrous kick-out and while City failed to deal with the threat, winger Aaron Thompson stole in and, while attempting to control, diverted the ball past the advancing Morgan.
The fortuitous equaliser spurred the home side on, but City did well to retain their composure, although without the same cutting edge as in the first half. Murray got himself into shooting positions on several occasions, but Armagh couldn’t seem to get him the ball at the right moment as threatening attacks went a-begging.
After Cullen and Murray headed good chances over the bar, City finally retook the lead with just over five minutes remaining. Dara Noonan and ‘keeper Brown both reached a free-kick from the right wing at the same instant, and Eamon Kelly was on hand to hook the ball over his head and into the net to the delight of City fans.
The demoralised hosts tried to make a quick comeback, but the young Eagles were in no mood to relinquish another lead. Still attacking as injury time got under way, left full-back Ryan McGerrigan showed superb desire to reach a lost cause inside the QUB area. He won the ball himself before looking up to spot substitute Gareth Grimley in space, and after Brown stopped an initial effort, Grimley made no mistake with the follow-up, smashing the ball into the net before wheeling off in celebration as City sewed up the three points.
Armagh City: Morgan, McBirney (G Grimley), R McGerrigan, Lennon, Noonan, Kelly, Montgomery, Cullen, Murray, Donnelly (L Grimley), S McGerrigan (Sheridan). Sub not used: Rowney.