Armagh City 1
Armagh City followed up last week’s victory against Lurgan Celtic with another win on their travels, this time at Inver Park in Larne on Saturday. Despite missing a number of first team regulars through injury and unavailability, Marty Rice’s side produced a determined performance that was rewarded by Jasir Camara’s second-half winner.
On a cool afternoon, both sides struggled in the opening minutes to deal with the poor pitch conditions that made any kind of passing game very difficult.
It was the home side who had the better of the chances in the opening half, with City keeper John Connolly forced into an early stop from Conall McGrandles before denying James McCabe with a smart save on 19 minutes.
Armagh, however, almost opened the scoring with a quick break moments later, as the energetic Camara latched onto a high through-ball which he headed over advancing home keeper Connor Malcolmson, only to see the effort drift wide of the post.
Larne’s best chance of the half fell to McGrandles on the half-hour mark, as he found space from a set-piece but headed over from 8 yards out.
Playing down the hill and with a noticeable breeze, the home side continued to pour on the pressure, as Michael Smith first spurned a great chance when he snatched at a shot after going through on goal, before Connolly again had to come to City’s rescue as he produced an acrobatic save to keep out Jordan Malone’s overhead effort.
The onslaught continued until the half-time whistle, as central defender Chris Rodgers connected with another set-piece for Larne, but Sean Mallon blocked well to keep City on level terms at the interval.
Having survived a difficult opening 45 minutes, Armagh boss Marty Rice’s side hoped to impose themselves more after the break, but again it was the home side who made most of the running.
Stephen Hutchinson was City’s hero on 55 minutes, as he blocked Malone twice in quick succession to keep Larne at bay. Defender Rodgers then had another chance from a corner on the left, but again he headed over under pressure from the Armagh defence.
City’s chances were dealt a real blow midway through the half when youngster Eoin Toal was on the receiving end of a dangerous challenge from Larne substitute Andrew Mooney, and the centre-half was unable to continue after receiving treatment on the sideline.
Despite the set-back, City continued to fight and immediately won a corner at the other end. Johnny McSorley fired in a perfect out-swinger from the right and Camara timed his run perfectly to head the ball firmly into the bottom corner of the net for his first goal for the club.
With 20 minutes still to play, Armagh knew they would still have plenty of defending to do to bring home all three points, and so it proved.
Larne thought they’d got back on level terms on 76 minutes, as McCabe raced through on goal and fired in a well-struck left-footed effort only to see Connolly brilliantly turn the ball onto the cross-bar.
The last quarter of an hour saw Larne throw everything at City, with numerous long throw-ins fired into the box, but Armagh’s young side stood tall and defended resolutely to see out the remaining minutes and take home all three points.
The win will have brought great satisfaction to manager Marty Rice, particularly in light of all the absentees to his squad on the day. The result will give City some further confidence ahead of a looming relegation play-off, when they hope to have Conor Mullen, Luke Grimley, Paul Carvill, Ultan Lennon, Matthew Hynds and Eamon Kelly all back in contention for a starting spot.
Before then, Armagh will hope for another strong performance in their last league game of the season on Saturday 29 April when Knockbreda visit Holm Park, kick-off 3pm.
Armagh City: John Connolly, Dale Montgomery, Shea Campbell, Eoin Toal (Ernestas Verenka), Stephen Hutchinson, Sean Mallon, Ben Rice, Johnny McSorley, Thai Blevins (Ewan Buchannon), Gary Boyle (Dara Murphy), Jasir Camara. Sub not used: Stefan Graham.