Armagh City 1-1 Ards
City made a solid start to the season with a draw against Championship 1 promotion favourites Ards. This match marked City’s return to Belfast Telegraph Championship One after four years in Championship 2 and they quickly realised they will have a tough task this season.
The team started brightly despite the fact that they were missing four of their top senior players because of suspensions and other commitments. City almost opened their account on five minutes when a thunderous right-footed half-volley from Eamon Kelly whizzed over the opposition crossbar.
The Eagles deservedly took the lead on 12 minutes when a corner from the left was headed back across the goals by Dara Noonan and, as the Ards defence dithered, the prolific Stephen Murray pounced to blast the ball into the roof of the net from 15-yards out.
This score only served to start an Ards onslaught led by Cahoon who burst into the City box and was unlucky to drag his 10-yard effort into the side-netting. Almost immediately Eamon McAllister fired a low 20-yard shot just wide as Ards applied the pressure and tried to grab the equaliser before the break.
However, Noonan and Conor McAnallen – signed this season by City from Lurgan Celtic – were immense in the heart of the home side’s defence and, in company with ‘keeper Sean Morgan, just about managed to keep the visitors at bay.
Half-time: Armagh City 1-0 Ards
After the break City’s Philip Donnelly shot goalwards but Ards stopper Graham McKibben got down well to his right to divert the ball around an upright. Visiting sub Keith Dougan should have levelled on 55 minutes when he was left free in the box but Morgan parried his initial shot and the follow-up effort was drilled wide.
Ards continued on the offensive and their deserved equaliser came with just over 10 minutes remaining. A shot struck an Armagh upright and bounced across goals where Cahoon was first to react and bundled the ball past the despairing Morgan.
Ards were now firing on all cylinders as they went for the win. But, in doing so, they twice left themselves exposed at the back and the rampant Murray almost made them pay with two difficult chances.
This was an excellent game, and Ards, led brilliantly by the experienced Conor Downey, will count themselves unlucky not to have taken all three points. City, however, played doggedly throughout and will be buoyed by the fact that their inexperienced team will be boosted by the return of four senior players over the next two weeks.
Team: Morgan, Montgomery, Noonan, Kelly, Cullen, Murray, Donnelly, L Grimley, Moore, McQuaid, McAnallen
Subs: Keegan, Martin, Daly, Nesbitt, McNamee