1st Bangor 1
Armagh City cleared the first hurdle in the IFA Intermediate Cup on Saturday defeating top Amateur League side 1st Bangor with an impressive performance and some clinical finishing.
Manager Joe Ker lost keeper Conor Larkin to injury just minutes before the kick-off, which meant that regular custodian Danny Devine stepped up from the bench while Matthew Hynds, Daniel Courtney, Leo Monteiro and Edilson Tavares all started in the starting lineup, captained by Padraig Judge.
After being caught cold last week City themselves took an early lead when Courtney met a wayward Bangor pass, heading the ball through to Neda Maciulaitis who helped the ball forward. Michael O’Hehir raced onto the through ball and drilled home to give his side the edge over an older and more experienced side which included former Glentoran striker Matty Burrows.
O’Hehir received another pass from Maciulaitis moments later and forced visiting keeper Tony Galbraith into a diving save with a well-struck effort from outside the area, while Judge headed wide from the resulting corner.
Bangor then came at the City defence and Burrows fired in a stinging shot but Devine was alert to tip over for a corner as the ball looked destined for the roof of the net.
In the 14th minute the Eagles extended their lead when Judge found Jack Clarke out on the right wing. He cut inside past two defenders and hit a left-footed drive which was well saved by keeper Galbraith, only for the ball to fall straight to Maciulaitis who coolly slotted the ball home to double the lead.
The visitors immediately went on the attack in search of way back in to the game but the City defenders kept them at bay for the most part, although they should have found the net midway through the half but the ball flashed wide when a goal looked certain.
Former Glentoran striker Matthew Burrows was a constant threat in the 1st Bangor attack, but Monteiro defied his youthfulness to come out on top in their one-on-one battle through the game while Luke Grimley was his usual unflappable self in the heart of the defence.
On the half hour mark a long ball caught the Armagh defence napping but Devine made a fine block as a Bangor forward made towards his goal and as the break approached the young keeper firmly punched a dangerous inswinging corner to safety despite being surrounded by a crowd of players and the opening half ended with City’s two-goal cushion intact.
City were dealt a blow shortly after the break as Grimley pulled up and had to be replaced by Caio Lobo in the heart of the defence. The concerns quickly gave way to joy as City extended the lead seconds later as Clarke received a well-weighted pass out on the right from Judge and as the winger sprinted towards the Bangor goal he rifled in a thunderous shot from an acute angle that gave the keeper no chance, to give City a three-goal cushion and put Clarke firmly in the reckoning for ‘goal of the season’ consideration!
O’Hehir and Tavares both came close with further efforts, but the wind which City were now playing against increased in strength and the home players found difficulty executing passes as Bangor searched valiantly for a breakthrough.
Thai Blevins was introduced to the midfield in place of the busy O’Hehir as City looked to kill the tie off, but on 70 minutes 1st Bangor did get on the scoresheet as Jordan Dalzell finished off a swift break to reduce the arrears.
Joe Kerr made his final substitution with a quarter of an hour to go, as Mark Lucas replaced Tavares to provide more bodies in the middle of the pitch. Play swung from end-to-end but without any notable efforts on either goal, as City came through a tough test to proceed to the next round of the competition.
As this was the designated ‘Tie of the Round’, Jack Clarke was presented with the ‘Man of the Match’ award by a member of the IFA Intermediate committee to a well deserved round of applause following a strong performance capped off by that fabulous goal.
Armagh City: Daniel Devine, Conor Kerr, Luke Grimley (Caio Lobo), Leo Monteiro, Daniel Courtney, Padraig Judge, Matthew Hynds, Jack Clarke, Edilson Tavares (Mark Lucas), Nedas Maciulaitis, Michael O’Hehir (Thai Blevins). Subs not used: Simon Smyth, Jake Keegan.