Four-star Ballynagross overcome Strangford

Four-star Ballynagross overcome Strangford

10 January 2018

BALLYNAGROSS increased their lead at the top of Division 1 to seven points when they blitzed a seriously understrength Strangford at The Links on Saturday.

There is no question that Ballynagross deserved their victory, but they should have put the game to bed long before Darryl McGrady’s late insurance strike finally killed off a young Strangford side.

The visitors opted for an adventurous 4-2-4 system with the McCavera brothers, Eoin and Donal, operating on the flanks and Daniel Taggart and Declan Dowie spearheading the attack.

This gambit worked a treat and with eight minutes gone Aidy Finnegan finished a surging run with a clever pass out to Donal McCavera.

He beat his man on the edge of the box before firing the ball into the melting pot. Strangford failed to clear the danger properly and Eoin McCavera drilled in a beauty from the edge of the box.

Finnegan, who was dominant in midfield alongside the equally impressive Kieran Taggart, played in Dowie, but he was off target.

With 15 minutes gone Taggart had a shot saved by stand-in ‘keeper Karol Shields before the Ballynagross playmaker had a header cleared off the line. 

Strangford, who were seeing plenty of the ball, but doing nothing with it, were hanging on by the fingernails and Shields saved again from Teggart and Dowie as Ballynagross looked for a second goal.

The game then entered an unproductive period with the respective defences holding firm. Holding firm that is until the 42nd minute when Conor Marron flicked an Eoin McCavera corner into the path of Taggart and he buried the ball in the net with an explosive finish.

Strangford had their first shot in anger in the 45th minute when Conor Shields chanced his arm from distance after an enterprising run from right back, but his effort failed to bother Cathail Arnold.

The second half was barely five minutes old when Ballynagross made it 3-0. Donal McCavera and Daniel Taggart dovetailed perfectly before releasing Dowie and he beat Shields all ends up with a fierce shot.

Strangford were staring down the barrel of a heavy defeat, but switching the ageless Donnan Ritchie into the middle of the park turned the tide in their favour.

With 52 minutes gone Patrick Kerr ran at the heart of the Ballynagross defence and when they failed to clear the danger, Ronan Clarke popped up to place the loose ball past a stranded Arnold.

Two minutes later at the other end Shields did well to stop Daniel Taggart in his tracks, but it wasn’t long before Strangford were back on the front foot with Ritchie leading the charge.

A few abortive raids followed before Ritchie and Callum Shields carved Ballynagross open and Clarke was perfectly placed at the back post to steer the ball home to make it 3-2 with 18 minutes remaining.

Ballynagross were creaking at the joints, but as Strangford huffed and puffed looking for an equaliser, McGrady came off the bench to seal the deal with his side’s fourth goal following a Daniel Taggart free.

Strangford: K Shields, Conor Shields, C Magee, D Ritchie, L Reilly, L McMullan, S Savage, R Swail, Callum Shields, P Kerr, R Clarke. Subs: P Hynds, C Vaughan, J O’Reilly, 

Ballynagross: C Arnold, K Johnstone, C Marron, A Beattie, P O’Reilly, K Taggart, D McCavera, A Finnegan, D Dowie, D Taggart, E McCavera. Subs: M Magill, C Craig, D McGrady.