Negus hits right note

Negus hits right note

6 October 2021

CELTIC Bhoys returned after a two-week break from action with a resounding win over Ballynahinch Olympic Town at Kilmore playing fields on Saturday afternoon.

Two first half goals from Celtic’s Michael Burns and Conaill Kerr, compounded with a red card to Town captain Niall McGlew minutes before the interval, proved enough to put the game beyond the reach of the Ballynahinch side. 

Despite a valiant second half effort, the Town’s misery was complete after Celtic captain Michael Rice headed home before debutant Negus McCabe netted to seal the victory.

It was Ballynahinch who kicked off the contest and pressed early on, putting the Celtic defence on the back foot.

An early onslaught of Town attacks was well managed by Blaine Connolly, who headed clear everything that came in his direction.

He was reinforced by the neat footwork of Ryan Fitzpatrick, who put in a man of the match performance at Celtic’s right back position. 

Time and time again, Town struggled down the right flank thanks to quick, triangle passing between Fitzpatrick and midfielder Michael Burns. 

Just minutes into the game, one such move almost opened up a chance for Celtic striker Jay Gibney after Fitzpatrick had played an inviting pass which split the Town back four.

However, goalkeeper Dean Blackwood quickly smothered the opportunity thanks to experienced positioning on the pitch.

With the opening minutes still very much a feeling out process for both sides, soon chances would come in abundance.

Town stalwart Liam Sloan saw his long-range effort whistle past the post on the nine-minute mark, before Celtic’s Connolly made a commendable tackle on the advancing Paul Turley.

Temperatures were starting to hot up as the sun began to break through the clouds shortly before the first quarter, and this perhaps mirrored what was going on within the matchup. 

Fitzpatrick found his name in referee Anthony Russell’s books after contesting one too many decisions before players began exchanging words with each other in what was quickly becoming a feisty affair.

With 20 minutes played Celtic would break the deadlock and gain control of the match for the remainder of the contest.

Gibney, usually the person responsible for putting the ball in the net, turned provider after his long throw found its way to the edge of the Town box, where Burns unleashed an unstoppable volley into the top left hand corner.

This failed to deter the Ballynahinch outfit, who immediately went searching for a response.

Town striker Niall McMullan saw his effort pushed wide by Hoops keeper Nathan Curran, which added to the continually mounting chances from corners that Ballynahinch were squandering.

Gibney looked to add to his assists when his cross fizzed along the six-yard line, but no one was there to tap in the golden opportunity.

However, it wouldn’t be long before the defining moments of the match, as Celtic’s Shaun Megahey found himself through on goal after another of Fitzpatrick’s direct passes.

Finding himself one-on-one with the ‘keeper, Town captain and centre back Niall McGlew made the decision to cut Megahey down before he could get his shot away.

This left referee Russell with no choice but to show McGlew the red card.

To add to McGlew’s woes, Celtic’s Conaill Kerr delicately swept the resultant free kick into the net to double his side’s lead a minute before the interval.

To their credit, Ballynahinch again remained resilient and looked to pull a goal back just before the half.

They were nearly rewarded when Gary Wilson managed to round ‘keeper Curran before he saw his goal bound effort brilliantly cleared off the line by Connolly.

The second half wasn’t much different to the first, as Ballynahinch continued to press, but never looked like troubling the Celtic defence, especially as they knew they were committing forward with one less man at the back.

An early Gibney effort went just right of the post in what was a warning for things to come, after the Town were left exposed at the back.

Goalscorer Kerr was substituted for debutant Negus McCabe six minutes into the half, as the former Reading FC academy player instantly made an impact with his mazey runs and lightening quick pace.

It wouldn’t be long before he stamped his authority on the game, adding Celtic’s third of the match with a solo run that saw him leave two Town players in his wake before finishing from an acute angle.

Celtic rounded of the scoring through captain Michael Rice, after his header lofted over Town ‘keeper Blackwood and into the net.

Liam Sloan and Damien Travers kept plugging away for the Town in the centre of the park, but they knew they were fighting an uphill battle as the game quietly fizzled out for the remaining minutes of the contest.

After the final whistle had blown, man of the match Ryan Fitzpatrick reflected on his team’s performance.

“I think the team performed well overall. I think we were a little rusty at times which was to be expected, having not played a game for two weeks before,” he said. 

“I think when we started moving the ball quicker, we were able to pass the ball around Ballynahinch and play the better football,” he continued.

“We always work on the quick one-twos and triangle play in training. We agreed before the match and at the half time talk to keep the ball moving quick and try use movement off the ball to create the chances.”

Following a mixed bag of results as of late for Celtic, this was a much-needed win which has pushed the side back to their usual confidence.

“I definitely think this performance has set us back on the right path,” said Fitzpatrick. 

“We trained hard in the weeks without a game, so I think this win has gave everyone the confidence again to keep pushing on for the league.”

The star performer also referred to Celtic’s latest signing, who made an instant impact on his debut.

“I think Negus is a great addition to the team. He joined last week and has trained hard and showed everyone how fast and skilful he is. 

“Scoring in his debut also shows his determination for a starting place, which is what is needed in the team as it keeps everyone on their toes and putting their best in weekly.”

Ballynahinch: D Blackwood, D Maxwell, S King, N McGlew (capt), M Rice, L Sloan, D Travers, G Wilson, P Turley, N McMullan, S Rafferty

Subs: C Millar, L Townsley, B Lowery

Celtic Bhoys: N Curran, R Fitzpatrick, R Quinn, M Rice (capt), B Connolly, M Burns, S Megahey, C McCartan, J Gibney, S McMahon, C Kerr. Subs: E Kelly, J Dagens, N McCabe