Armagh City 0
Four second half goals from Dergview saw Armagh City slump to a league defeat in the NIFL Championship on Saturday at Darragh Park.
Marty Rice’s side still sit five points adrift in the relegation play-off and basement side Annagh United picked up a valuable point away at Harland and Wolff Welders to cut the gap between themselves and the Eagles to nine points.
Two sublime finishes from Garth Falconer and a goal apiece from Philip Wallace and Duwayne McManus in the second half saw Richard Clarke’s side ease to a 4-0 win and practically cemented their place in the top six prior to the split in two weeks time.
It was the home side that started the strongest and Falconer should have opened the scoring with 9 minutes on the clock. A low ball from the industrious Wallace found Falconer at the back post, but he blasted wide of the upright when well placed inside the area.
Sixty seconds later City should have opened the scoring. Grimley clipped a clever ball behind Gareth Buchanan and Shea Campbell chipped the ball over the advancing Stefan McCusker, but the ball landed the other side of the post.
Dergview continued to dominate possession and McManus and Burns in the centre of the park were controlling proceedings.
McManus was next to create another goalscoring opportunity, but his clever left-footed delivery evaded everyone inside the area and Connolly watched the ball go out for a goal-kick.
Aaron Arkinson was a constant threat on the right hand side and Paul Carvill was working hard to prevent the diminutive winger from providing the spark to give the home side the lead.
Arkinson linked up well down the right with Walsh and his reverse ball found the feet of Ryan Campbell, but the ex-Ballinamallard United striker fired the ball straight at John Connolly in the City goal.
City were proving to be a threat on the counterattack with Mullen and Campbell were clicking well as a partnership, but the final ball was either too often blocked or poorly executed by the visitors.
The away side drew a huge sigh of relief with 31 minutes on the clock when Arkinson fed the ball into the path of Wallace and his cross to the back post left Campbell with an open goal, but he somehow mistimed his kick and fired wide with the gaping goal at his mercy.
City dominated the early stages of the second half and they thought they had taken the lead when Conor Mullen slotted home from close range.
Dergview stopper McCusker spilled Paul Carvill’s dipping free-kick from wide on the right and Mullen was quickest to react inside the area to slot home.
However, much to the frustration of Mullen and the City bench, assistant referee Shane Corrigan had ruled that the former Dungannon Swifts starlet was in an offside position.
That decision proved to be a turning point in the tie and the home side moved up a gear and started to assert their influence on the tie and with 65 minutes on the clock they opened the scoring.
Falconer made strides down the left hand side and his attempted delivery was poorly cleared by the City defence and McManus casually curled the ball into the top right hand corner of the goal to give the home side the lead.
City nearly grabbed themselves a lifeline five minutes later.
McCusker rushed out of his goal to clear a through ball and his attempted clearance fell at the feet of Shea Campbell, but the striker rushed his first time shot and it bounced wide of the vacant goal as McCusker raced back into his area.
It was 2-0 moments later as City squandered possession in the centre of the park and Wallace clipped the ball into the area and Falconer fired a bullet of a header into the top right hand corner past the despairing dive of Connolly.
City were down and out and the home side smelt blood. A straight forward ball over the to p saw Lennon misjudge his attempted header and it skimmed off the top of his head and Wallace raced on to the bouncing ball and calmly chipped the onrushing Connolly to make it 3-0.
The impressive Falconer claimed his second of the game in the closing stages as a clever free-kick routine from Walsh and McManus saw the ball squared to Falconer, who unleashed a thunderbolt of a strike off the bar and into the top left hand corner of net.
This was an impressive performance from a Dergview side that was missing star striker Ivan Sproule and they seem almost certain now to take their place in the top six.
For City it was a bad day at the office and if Mullen’s goal had been given in the early stages of the second half then Marty Rice’s side may very well have taken something for the game.
City now have a weekend off fro m league action and they have one final league tie at home against surprise package Ballyclare Comrades in the Championship before the split.
However, City know that if they are going to stay clear of relegation then they must defeat the teams around them and they have ten vital games after their clash with Ballyclare on February 11.
Armagh City: Connolly, Montgomery, Grimley, Lennon, Toal, Kelly, Hynds, Mallon, Campbell, Mullen, Carvill. Subs: McQuaid, Rice, Blevins, Boyle, Reverte.