Knockbreda 1-3 Armagh City
Marty Rice’s Armagh City side travelled to Breda Park in east Belfast on Saturday and emerged with three impressive points after a superb performance at a venue that hasn’t yielded much success for the Eagles over the years.
Conditions were blustery throughout the game, with City kicking-off playing into the wind. Both teams took some time to find their way in the early play, with no real chances to bother either keeper.
Just as Knockbreda looked to be gaining the upper hand a quick City break led to the first goal of the game on 20 minutes. Andrew Hoey picked up the ball on the right wing and after beating a man slipped the ball through to Philip Donnelly on the right side of the penalty area. Donnelly looked up and picked out the on-rushing Jordan Bell who slotted home into the bottom corner for his fourth goal of the season.
The home side immediately tried to get back on level terms and City keeper John Connolly twice had to be alert to rush from his goalline and clear the ball.
The best chance before the break, however, came in the dying seconds of the half. After good work on the left from Shea McGerrigan, Donnelly picked out Hoey on the edge of the Knockbreda penalty area. He unselfishly laid the ball off to the open Shea Campbell who looked to have perfectly hit the bottom corner of the net, only for a defender to intervene near the line and clear the danger.
Knockbreda came out determined after the interval and forced a corner within seconds of the restart. The inswinging set-piece from the right caused problems for Connolly in the City goal and the ball ended up in the net only for the referee to award a free-kick for an infringement on the keeper.
The decision angered the home team and support, and seemed to affect the City team as they struggled to really get out of the blocks in the opening period of the half.
The home side continued to push forward, though with little quality in their final product and a City defence, marshalled by the familiar partnership of Ultan Lennon and Dara Noonan, looking comfortable under the long balls that were continually played forward.
Just after the midway point of the half and the home side were on level terms, however, as Lennon mistimed a sliding tackle inside the area and the referee pointed to the spot. James Wright confidently struck the ball into the bottom corner and the game looked like it might have tipped in Knockbreda’s favour.
Yet there was a twist as, within two minutes of conceding the equaliser, City had conjured a superb goal to regain the lead. Bell picked the ball up just inside the Knockbreda half on the left wing and fired a superb diagonal ball over the left full-back’s head and perfectly into the path of Hoey who controlled and calmly slotted past the on-rushing keeper for his fifth goal of the season.
The instant response was a clear blow to Knockbreda, while it also gave City some confidence that three points were very much still on the cards.
While the home side continued with their barrage of direct attacks, real threats to Connolly’s goal were few and far between, and it was City who looked more dangerous on the break.
With ten minutes remaining it looked like City would put the game out of reach, as Hoey showed some wizardy down the left byline to beat his man and pull the ball back for Campbell, but the keeper did well to smother the close range effort.
Knockbreda had their best chances from set-pieces as the final whistle loomed, but Bell and Lennon led a strong defensive effort from the City team to avert any danger.
In the end, City did wrap the game up with a third goal in injury time. Campbell jumped onto a bad touch by a Knockbreda defender to steal the ball 20 yards from goal before firing an unstoppable effort into the top corner of the net for his first goal of the season.
The delight among the City team was clear from the celebrations of that strike, and the three points lifted City up to 9th place in Championship 1 after back-to-back 3-1 victories.
City have two cup ties this week, with Warrenpoint Town visiting in the Mid-Ulster Cup on Tuesday night, 27 October, kick-off 7.45pm. Meanwhile, a spot in the Boxing Day final of the Bob Radcliffe Cup is up for grabs on Saturday, as Dollingstown visit Holm Park, with kick-off at 3pm.
Armagh City: John Connolly, Conor McAnallen, Dara Noonan, Ultan Lennon, Ryan McGerrigan (Paul Carvill), Jordan Bell, Eamon Kelly, Andrew Hoey (Liam Cullen), Philip Donnelly, Shea McGerrigan (Sean Mallon), Shea Campbell. Subs not used: Gary Lawless, Luke Grimley.