Strangford see off stubborn Celtic

Strangford see off stubborn Celtic

7 February 2024

THIS local derby fixture between Strangford and Celtic Bhoys Academy went the way of the hosts at The Links on Saturday.

The scoreline was kept to just two goals which speaks volumes to the defending of Celtic Bhoys and highlights the frustration for a Strangford side who should have had more.

Strangford signalled their intent for the win within the first five minutes as Eoin Kelly latched on to Owen Curran’s pass but saw his strike saved by Celtic ‘keeper Stephen Moore. 

In the tenth minute of the game, Strangford had four corners in-a-row, but strong defending by Celtic Bhoys kept the scoreline level. 

Celtic Bhoys found their first chance of the game shortly after when Dylan Watson’s counter attack fed Sean Cahill, whose shot went the wrong side of the net. 

Strangford remained dangerous, however, with Ronán Smyth almost making the required connection to open the scoring. 

Eventually, Strangford’s first goal came in the 35th minute when Eoin Magee’s throw-in deflected off Conal Fitzsimmons and into the path of Curran, whose half-volley struck the target.

Strangford almost immediately doubled their advantage when Kelly beat the offside trap, although Celtic custodian Moore somehow kept the ball out of the net and the score remained 1-0 at half-time.

Straight into the second half and Strangford striker Fitzsimmons had broke free from his marker, aiming for goal, but ‘keeper Moore remained in fine form to save the shot. Moore was yet again called into action, two minutes later, to deny Kelly. 

Strangford relentlessly pushed and were edging closer to their elusive second, and this time it was Fitzsimmons who almost added his name to the scoresheet as his effort rocked the crossbar. 

It took until the hour mark for Celtic Bhoys to get their first chance in the second half, when Brandon Laverty broke through the Strangford backline, but a well-timed intervention by ‘keeper Thomas Connery kept his clean sheet intact. 

Over the next 15 minutes Strangford created three real chances; the first through a shot by Fitzsimmons, the second from a Magee strike which whistled just wide and the third from a Smyth pass to Reilly, who forced a finger tip save which resulted in a corner. 

It was from that corner which Strangford’s second goal came, as Reilly, who was left unmarked, headed into the back of the net. 

In the remaining time of the game, Celtic Bhoys changed up their formation to increase their attacking chances, but Strangford strengthened their backline with Stefan McGrattan and Thomas Fitzsimons entering the fray. 

Strangford will be happy with the three points, but frustrated at the scoreline, whereas Celtic Bhoys can take positives from their defending and goalkeeping efforts.

Strangford: T Connery, E Magee, C Magee, E Watterson, F McFall, S Teggart, O Curran, P Donnelly, R Smyth, C Fitzsimmons, E Kelly. 

Subs: S McGrattan, T Fitzsimons, R Reilly.

Celtic Bhoys: S Moore, C McMenamin, R Doran, D Ennis, J Curran, P Ferris, D Watson, S Cahill, J Mullan, J McCreesh, J McStravick. 

Subs: P Watters, A Rukabi, B Laverty.