Annagh United 2-1 Armagh City
Having gone through pre-season undefeated, producing some excellent performances and good results, City had hoped to bring that form into the opening game of the league season.
Manager Marty Rice had a full squad to choose from with the exceptions of captain Liam Cullen and the suspended Sean Mallon.
City started on the front foot and within a couple of minutes new signing Jordan Bell had a half chance as the ball came over the right back’s head but he failed to make proper contact. A minute later an excellent cross from Ryan McGerrigan just failed to find returning striker Shea Campbell. In the opening period City caused the home defence all kinds of problems with Ryan and Shea McGerrigan creating havoc down the City left. The best opening again fell Bell on the quarter hour mark but the former Annagh man’s shot was comfortably saved by Fox.
The visitors first real attack was thwarted when Luke Grimley made a fine block tackle. Annagh did come into the game a little more during this period, however their best opportunities tended to come from set pieces.
City created a number of reasonable chances as the half progressed with an Andy Moore header going narrowly over the bar and, following a great move involving Philip Donnelly, Shea McGerrigan and Ryan McGerrigan, the latter’s shot was palmed over the crossbar. A poor clearance from keeper Fox saw Shea Campbell almost capitalise but his shot went just over.
City continued the pressure right until the half time whistle but failed to make the breakthrough.
HT: Annagh United 0-0 Armagh City
The opening minutes of the second half were more even as the game developed into a midfield battle. The only real chance came when keeper John Connolly released Shea McGerrigan with a quick throw and he ran half the length of the pitch before firing in a superb cross which debutant Gary Lawless met at the back post but his shot only found the side netting.
The home side only really continued to cause a threat from free kicks and in an effort to make the breakthrough City introduced Marty Havern and Eamon Kelly. Almost immediately Marty Rice’s side went ahead when Dara Noonan stabbed the ball home from close range following a free kick from the left by Shea McGerrigan.
The home side immediately went on the attack and put the City defence under sustained pressure. Dara Noonan was fortunate to see his defensive header come off the top of the crossbar but within two minutes the home side found an equaliser when Steven Park fired an unstoppable shot in off the underside of the bar giving Connolly in the City goal no chance.
For a period it looked as if both sides were prepared to settle for a share of the points and it was not until the last five minutes that the game once again came to life. Marty Havern picked up a poor clearance from keeper Fox but pushed his attempt wide of the keeper’s left hand post and less than a minute later an Annagh cross was cleared off the line.
City came back again and a superb Shea McGerrigan cross was met by Eamon Kelly but his header was unluckily blocked by fellow substitute Andrew Hoey in a crowed area and cleared by the grateful Annagh defense.
Annagh grabbed a winner with less a minute remaining when a defensive mistake allowed Jay Gardiner through the centre of the City defence before slotting the ball home, and City were left to rue missed opportunities at the other end.
A disappointing start to the season after all the pre-season promise. City never really played the high tempo and sharp passing game which they have become known for playing in recent seasons, but will still feel that their efforts deserved a point.
City team: John Connolly, Gary Lawless, Luke Grimley, Dara Noonan, Conor McAnallen, Ryan McGerrigan(c), Andy Moore, Jordan Bell, Philip Donnelly, Shea McGerrigan, Shea Campbell. Subs: Eamon Kelly for Moore, Marty Havern for Campbell, Andrew Hoey for Donnelly, Gary Boyle, David Masterson.