Lisburn Distillery 1-2 Armagh City
After a slow start to the new season, Armagh City got their league campaign properly underway on Saturday with a fine victory against Lisburn Distillery. Manager Marty Rice had a strengthened panel of players to bring to New Grosvenor, with Paul Carvill starting on the left side while striker Gavin McParland was named among the substitutes.
The Eagles got off to a flying start, moving the ball with purpose and looking threatening going forward. Stephen Murray and Shea McGerrigan looked dangerous with their pace and direct play, and that combination quickly paid off with Murray slipping an inviting ball to McGerrigan who coolly finished with his left foot past McBride in the Distillery goal.
Despite several offside calls going against him, McGerrigan’s speed was a constant worry for the home defence throughout the first half. Soon after giving City the lead, the winger found himself contesting a bouncing ball with ‘keeper McBride, with a collision between the pair forcing the ball to break to Ronan O’Hara whose lob just evaded the top corner of the net.
Distillery finally started to come into the game midway through the half after City’s early dominance, and Sean Morgan had to be alert to acrobatically tip Martin Jones’ rasping effort over the crossbar. The home side’s best attacking threat in the opening period came mainly from set pieces, with Morgan looking commanding in the air until a Robbie White challenge forced the ball loose from a corner. City seemed to expect the referee’s whistle to blow, and as Bingham poked the ball goalward O’Hara did well to clear amongst a cluster of City defenders.
Having lost their early momentum City became drawn into a midfield battle, with no real chances of note before the interval. Distillery boss Tommy Kincaid made a pair of substitutions at the break, making clear his disappointment with his side’s first half performance.
Within minutes of the restart the Whites had a free-kick wide on the right wing and as the ball swung in Distillery defender Darren Nixon prodded the ball towards goal and over the stranded Morgan. McAnallen threw himself at the ball and looked to have saved City’s blushes with a hooked clearance, but as Nixon turned away in disappointment the assistant referee quickly indicated that the ball had crossed the line and the home side were on level terms.
The goal seemed to spur Armagh back to life however as they sharpened up their passing game and started to dominate the play once again. McGerrigan and Murray both came into the game once more, with Murray having a golden chance spurned by a heroic challenge by Ciaran Burns. Ultan Lennon then threatened from a corner and Murray fired a low shot wide of the target as the visitors turned the screw on a tiring home defence.
Sensing the opportunity to snatch all three points, Marty Rice made an attacking double substitution that pushed City forward as Philip Donnelly and Gavin McParland replaced O’Hara and McGerrigan. The pair immediately made an impact as Armagh forced a series of set pieces deep in Distillery territory and finally the break-through arrived.
Dale Montgomery’s perfectly flighted inswinging corner from the left was met by a towering leap from Lennon at the back post and he made no mistake with a firm downward header with just 11 minutes remaining.
City refused to sit back on their lead and continued to threaten on the break. Distillery’s only half chances in the dying minutes game from set pieces, but Armagh’s defence stood strong and held out for the victory.
Distillery defender Niall Derry received a late red card for a head-butt on McParland, and City saw out the remaining minutes for a well-deserved three points to move them off the bottom of the Belfast Telegraph Championship 1 table.
Armagh City: Morgan, Montgomery, Carvill, Lennon, McAnallen, Cullen, Moore, Kelly, O’Hara (Donnelly 66 min), S McGerrigan (McParland 66 min), Murray. Unused subs: L Grimley, G Grimley, R McGerrigan.