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442 Teamwear Down Area Winter Football League Round Up

It’s the crazy part of the season when the games come thick and fast, some teams edge closer to silverware, others fall just short, but it all adds to the excitement of the season drawing to its natural close, so if you’re involved in any way getting these games played, then well done, as there’s very little turnaround, certainly for those teams challenging in multiple competitions, to recover.

442 Teamwear DAWFL Premier Division Midweek Games

Thursday evening saw third placed Newtownards RBL face a local Ards derby as they welcomed Ards Rangers III to Hamilton Park, with a chance to move back up to 2nd place. Despite being beaten recently in the Frank Moore Cup, there was some signs of recovery for the home team, winning three and drawing one of their last 5 league outings, the only defeat coming against leaders Greenwell Star. The two teams had already met in the league, with Newtownards RBL claiming that one 3-1, so they’d have been hopeful of at least matching that result. The game proved to be a tight affair on a glorious night for football, but an inspired substitution was to see this game turn in the home team’s favour. With around 20 mins of the match remaining and the deadlock yet to be broken, Johnny Cash entered the battle and he almost scored within the first 60 secs of coming on, but we didn’t have to wait until he found the net, as just 4 mins later, the deadlock was broken as Cash gave the home team the lead. That seemed to be the deciding factor as the 90 mins came up o the clock, but there was to be late drama in this one, with no fewer than two goals deep into added time. First it was Charles Mackinnon calmly dinking the ball over the onrushing Ards Rangers goalkeepers head to double Newtownards RBL’s advantage, but Cash was then again to get on the scorecard again to claim his second and Newtownards RBL’s third, as they claimed a 3-0 win to move up to second with 4 games remaining, two of them against one of their main rivals for that runner up slot, Clonduff.

Weekend Games

This weekend saw four further games being played affecting the top and bottom ends of the table. During the week, Newtownards RBL had edged themselves into 2nd place, but the weekend gave Ballygowan the opportunity to reclaim that spot. This week saw them up against relegation threatened Portavogie Rangers II, who had sone well in the Billy Allen Memorial Shield to get to the semifinal, so could they use that cup form to turn their league campaign around! They started the weekend 5 points from safety but had 3 games in hand on the team above them, so any sort for points would potentially reduce that deficit. Ballygowan won the reverse fixture and with Portavogie having only won 2 league games all season, Ballygowan would have been hopeful of claiming a league double and they duly delivered with 3 goals in each half, Sam Davidson bagging a hattrick, as they sealed a comfortable 6-0 win to move up to second, just 2 points behind leaders Greenwell Star. Where do Portavogie find the points from if they are to save themselves from the dreaded drop with games against North Down, Newtownards RBL, 8th OB coming up! With Portavogie losing, bottom placed 8thOB had a chance to lift themselves off the bottom, but it was a tough ask as they faced highflyers Clonduff, who have sights on that runner up slot. Clonduff would have been regarded as firm favourites in this one, but by half time they only held a slender 1-0 lead to give 8th OB hope, That lead was doubled early in the second period, but 8th OB were to show some fight as they pulled back to 2-2 to give them further hope of getting something from the game, but two goals in quick succession saw those hoped dashed as Clonduff claimed maximum points following a 4-2 win to leave 8th OB rooted to the botton, but with games in hand on the two teams above them, they still have safety in their own hands, but that will involve winning games, which have proved few this season to date, so can they pick up the necessary points in their last 7 games! With the bottom two losing, Comber YM had a chance to widen the gap at the bottom and ease their relegation fears. This week saw them up against North Down, who they’d drawn 1-1 with earlier in the season, but if they were to do their relegation battle some good, they’d potentially need more from this game. The game proved to be a tight tense affair and by the interval, the deadlock had yet to be broken. However, midway through the second period, Comber YM were to give themselves hope as Saul Minnis gave them the lead and 4 mins later the game seemed to be going their way as North Down were reduced to 10 men. As we approached the final mins of the game it looked like Comber would see out a vital win, but their hearts were to be broken as 2 mins from time, North Down equalised and then deep into added time, former Comber YM player Sam Hanna nicked the points for North Down as they sealed a 2-1 win to move up to 6thspot. With Comber having only 2 games left to play, one of them a massive game against 8th OB, can they pick up points in their final games to save themselves or will we see the former champions relegated this season! The final game in this division saw Corrymeela entertaining Belvoir. This was the first meeting of the teams this season, but with only 6 points separating them at start of play and Belvoir holding a game in hand, I thought this one would be a tight battle and so it proved. By the interval, the deadlock had yet to be broken and as we headed into the final 10 mins that hadn’t changed, but Lorcan Fairmichael would change that with 8 mins to go as he gave Corrymeela a late lead and that proved decisive as they sealed a narrow 1-0 win to firm up their 5th place standing.

442 Teamwear DAWFL Division 1 Midweek Games

Tuesday evening saw three games in this division, with three of the main title and promotion challengers involved. Game of the evening saw 5th placed Newtown Forest entertaining leaders Castle. Castle started the day holding a 9-point advantage over their hosts, but even though Newtown Forest might have an outside chance of the title, they were very much in the hunt for the second automatic promotion slot, so it was vital they got something from the game to keep that challenge on track. Castle had only been beaten once all season, and normally start games quickly, but they were to find that Newtown Forest were up for this one, who duly took the lead midway through the first half through Samuel Halliday, but Castle aren’t top of the table without the ability to fight back, and that’s what they did around 10 mins later when Cristopher Carr made the scores level, to leave the game finely poised at the interval. The game continued to be a tight affair and as we approached the inal 10 mins it seemed like it would be a share of the spoils, but substitute Thomas McCloskey had other ideas as he duly got on the scorecard to give the ome team the lead for the second time, and this time they held onto that lead to claim a vital 2-1 win, the points seeing them move up to 4th in the table, with games in hand on the teams above them, so can they claim that 2ndpromotion spot! Ballynafeigh Breda Star are another contender for the title and promotion spots. They started the day in 6th spot, but with a lot of games still to play they are very much still in contention should they win those games and with Castle losing, they had a chance of keeping them under serious pressure, so can we see a repeat of last seasons Division 2 title battle hat saw Ballynafeigh edge it in last game of season! Tuesday saw them up against Victoria Athletic, who they’d already beaten 3-2 earlier in season, but in recent games Victoria were finding their shooting boots, so could they avenge that earlier defeat to put a serios dent in Ballynafeigh’s challenge! I expected this one to be another tight affair, and it proved just that, with the only goal coming on the stroke of half time, but the 44th min goal from Ross Owen was enough to keep Ballynafeigh’s title and promotion challenge on course, although with 8 league games remaining and the games coming thick and fast, will that prove to be too much of a schedule to go on and claim the title or promotion spots! The final game on Tuesday saw relegated Bangor Swifts III involved in a local derby as they entertained Abbey Villa III. Abbey Villa had comfortably won the reverse fixture 7-1, so I expected them to claim another comfortable win over the relegated outfit and they duly delivered as a second half brace from Matthew Burke guided them to a 4-0 win to firm up their 7th place standing.

Weekend Games

Referee availability for the weekend proved to be an issue, so only three of the four scheduled matches ended up being played. The big game this week involved two of the promotion chasing outfits, as Newtown Forest entertained Millisle. Only one point separated the teams at start of play, but with Newtown Forest holding a game in hand, a win for them would potentially give them the advantage in the promotion chase. Millisle had won the reverse fixture 3-2, so with home advantage on this occasion, Newtown Forest would have been looking to reverse that defeat to put themselves in the driving seat. As expected, the start of the game proved a tight affair, but the deadlock was broken on the half hour mark as Adam Salisbury gave Millisle the advantage. Salisbury then doubled that advantage early in the second half and with 25 mins remaining, Millisle added a third to give them a 3-0 lead and game apparently in the bag. However, Newtown Forest throughout the season have shown their fighting spirit and a substitution was to see them fight back in this one as Justin Stronge reduced the deficit within 10 mins of coming on and with 7 mins to go he added his second of the game to leave the final mins of the game on tenterhooks, but despite that fightback, Millisle held on to claim a ital 3 points 3-2, with the result seeing them move back up to that 2nd automatic promotion spot, so can they go all the way to book their place in the Premier Division! Leaders Castle had lost for only the second time in their last outing, so they’d have been keen to bounce back immediately to keep their title challenge on track. This week saw them at home in a local derby as they faced Groomsport II. Castle had won the reverse fixture 5-1, so a similar outcome would see them extend their lead again at the top to 5 points. The first half proved a tight affair, with a first half injury time goal giving them the edge at 2-1, but a more dominant second half showing saw them ease to the three points, as a hattrick from Lee Dempster and a brace from Joel Ferguson led them to a commanding 6-1 win,and with only 5 games remaining, surely the title is in sight for them or will we see a dramatic twist during those last few games! The final game saw Abbey Villa III entertaining Victoria Athletic, with maximum points vital for Victoria to ease any potential relegation fears. Abbey Villa started the day 4 points ahead with a game in hand, but Victoria had put together a few excellent results in their last outings, so this one looked like it could be a good tight battle. However, it proved to be more one sided than expected, as Victoria showed the firepower from last season with 3 goals in each half as they eased to a 6-2 win to sit just one point behind their hosts, so will we see Victoria climb higher in the division by the seasons end!

442 Teamwear DAWFL Division 2 Midweek Games

Tuesday saw one game in this division, as Bloomfield III, playing their final home game of the season, entertained strugglers Bangor YM III. Bangor had claimed an impressive win in their last outing when they put a serious dent in Agape’s title and promotion prospects, so would they build upon that! Bangor YM had won the reverse fixture 4-1, so they were looking to claim their first league double of the season. Must admit, I didn’t know how this game would go, with both outfits able to call upon the services of amateur league players, but the game proved to be a tight affair, with all the goals coming in the second half, a penalty 10 mins into the second half giving the home team the advantage, the 2 mins from time the points were secured, as Bloomfield claimed their 4th win of the season by way of a 2-0 win.

Weekend Games

This weekend saw this division potentially coming to an exciting climax, with all the main title and promotion challengers involved. Comber Star went into the weekend holding a one point advantage at the top, knowing that a win would deliver them the Division 2 title and an immediate return to Division 1. This week saw them up against Lagan Swifts, who had been edged out in the title and promotion race in their last outing, but with this being their last game of the season, no doubt would have been wanting to go out on a high. Comber Star had edged the reverse fixture 3-2, so I expected this one to be just as tight with the nerves involved. Comber Star started brightly and with around 20 mins to go to the interval, two Aaron Caughey strikes had give them a 2-0 win and seemingly on their way to the title and promotion, but a penalty just a couple of mins later was to see Lagan reduce that deficit to give them hope of getting something from the game. The second half proved to be a tense affair, but as the 90 mins came up, it appeared that Comber Star had achieved what they’d set out to do, but there was to be late drama in this one as with virtually the last kick of the game, a David Brady strike made the scores level at 2-2, which proved to be the final score meaning that the advantage in this exciting title and promotion race was now in the hands of the two chasing teams, Willowfield Parish 10th OB and Agape. Willowfield 10th OB finalised their league campaign with a home game against Clarawood, and having beaten them 4-2 away from home, they’d have been hopeful of claiming the points needed that would take them above Comber Star and potentially to the title. Willowfield therefore started as favourites in this one, the only concern being if nerves would get the better of them, but that proved not to be the case as a dominant performance led by a hattrick from Eoin Madden saw them romp to the points courtesy of a 6-0 win to move to the top in their last game, so will they be crowned champions! Well that now all depends on how Agape do in their last 3 games and this weekend saw them away to Bryansburn Rangers III, who they’d already trounced 13-2 in the reverse fixture, but a tighter encounter was expected on this occasion. The game proved to be a tight encounter, with Bryansburn taking the lead from the penalty mark 10 mins before the interval only to see Agape draw level almost immediately and on the stroke of half time, Agape edged their noses in front through Paul Hamilton to potentially keep their title and promotion challenge on track. With the game finely poised, the next goal was potentially rucial and it came midway through the half when a second penalty saw Bryansburn draw level at 2-2 and Agape’s title and promotion chances hanging by a thread. However, Agape have shown all season their ability to keep fighting until the end, and that fighting spirit was rewarded with a further 2 goals to give them a 4-2 win to keep their title and promotion aspirations alive and with 2 home games remaining, will that home advantage see them claim the Division 2 title or will we see them falling just short! The next week will potentially see how this division unfolds, so what an exciting end to what has proved so far to be a tightly fought battle at the top.

442 Teamwear DAWFL Reserve Division 1

North Down II started the day just 3 points behind the leaders and playing one of their games in hand. This week saw them up against bottom placed Comber YM II, who were fighting for points in attempt to avoid the dreaded drop. North Down had won the reverse fixture 4-2, but I expected nerves to play a part in this one as they attempt to claim their first Reserve Division 1 title. North Down started off quickly and took the lead in the opening 5 mins of the game through Philip Hannah, but that proved to be the only goal in a tightly fought first period. As the second half started, Comber YM needed to get the next goal to stand any chance of getting something from the game, but midway through the half Hannah bagged his second of the game to ease the nerves, and that proved to be the end of the scoring as North Down claimed a 2-0 win to join leaders Clonduff II on points, with Clonduff holding a vastly superior goal difference, but with a battle between the top two to come, will it prove to be a fitting climax in an exciting title battle! Greenwell Star II are the other team potentially involved in this fascinating title battle, but their chances lay in the hands of others. This week saw them up against 4th placed Comber Star II, who they’d already beaten 3-0 earlier in the season, so looking to complete a league double. With home advantage this time, Greenwell would have been odds on favourites, albeit Comber Star would have liked to complete their league programme on a positive note, and they duly delivered as a Darren Hobson brace led them to a 5-0 win on this occasion to sit just 6 points behind the top two awaiting any slipups. Corrymeela II had a good campaign last season, but this season has seen them involved in a relegation battle. This week saw them at home to Newtown Forest II, who they’s drawn 4-4 with in the reverse fixture so they’d have been looking to go one better in this one to ease away from trouble. They started brightly, taking the lead through James McLarnon on 17 mins and held onto that lead by the interval. However, despite that good start, the second period proved the complete opposite as Newtown Forest poered their way to the points, with a Pearce McComkey brace leading them to a comfortable 6-2 win, with McLarnon also scoring Corrymeela’s second goal. With only two games remaining, one of them against fellow relegation threatened Comber YM II, will it come down to that game to decide who goes up and who goes down with goal difference potentially being he decided!

442 Teamwear DAWFL Reserve Division 2 Midweek Games

Tuesday saw one game in this division and what a cracker it proved to be as title and promotion challengers Agape Swifts and Willowfield Parish 10th OB Athletic squared up to each other. 5 points separated the teams at start of play with Willowfield in pole position, but Agape held 3 games in hand, which could prove crucial in the final run in. Willowfield had won the reverse fixture 4-2, so they’d have been keen for a similar positive result in this one, but this one would ultimately prove to be a classic. Willowfield took the lead as early as the 6thmin, but midway through the half Agape would draw level, but in the final few mins of the first half, Willowfield added another two, as they moved into a commanding 3-1 lead. The second period had just started, when a penalty from captain Dean Gray increased Willowfield’s advantage to 4-1 to tighten their grip on the match, but two goals before the hour mark for Agape was to narrow that gap to 4-3 to leave this one on tenterhooks. An unfortunate own goal midway through the half was to give Willowfield a two-goal cushion again only for Agape to swiftly go up the other end to reduce the deficit to one again with 25 mins still to go, as substitute Stuart Withers claimed his second of the game within a 5 min period. The game was proving to be end to end stuff, and with around 20 mins to go, Willowfield restored their two goal advantage to move 6-4 ahead, but 2 goald in the next 10 mins, with Callum Coulter bagging his second of the game was to see Agape draw level at 6-6. As the full time whistle approached, it seemed to be a share of the spoils, but Willowfield once again would take to lead a substitute Garbhan Moriarty claimed his second of the game to give Willowfield what looked like a 7-6 win, but there was to be another twist in this one deep into added time, as Willowfield ere reduced to 10 men and Agape capitalised on that as James McGroarty grabbed his second of the 5th min of added time to give Agape a share of the spoils in what must surely have been one of the most thrilling all season.

Weekend Games

There were five games scheduled for the weekend, one being postponed due to referee unavailability, one result not known at time of writing, which leaves three games to report on. Agape Swifts looked to be one of the main contenders in this season’s title and promotion battle, but some erratic form of late meant that things were not in their own hands. This week saw them up against Ballynafeigh Breda Star II, who were unbeaten in their last three outings, drawing the last two, so would this prove to be another tight contest, with Agape also drawing midweek! Agape started quickly in this one and found themselves 1 up within 10 mins through James McGroarty, and 15 mins they doubled that lead to put themselves in a strong position, but 7 mins before the interval Ballynafeigh reduced the deficit to leave the game finely poised at the interval.McGroarty then restored Agape’s 2 goal advantage on 53 mins, but the next 20 mins saw Ballynafeigh turn the game in their favour as a brace from Lewis Wilson saw them move into a 4-3 lead, only to see Agape draw level within a few mins. With goals coming thick and fast, it was a surprise to see the goals drying up that that point to leave the score at 4-4, but with Agape now sitting 4 points adrift of the leaders with 2 games in hand, they still have a potential title tilt in their own hands, but will the erratic run of form prove costly come the seasons end! Ards Rangers IV and Queens Grads IV started the day level on points and with Queens edging the reverse fixture 4-3, another tight encounter was expected in this one and so it proved, with the game being decided in the first half. A tight opening meant that the deadlock wasn’t broken until 15 mins before the interval as Ards Rangers edged their noses in front and just as the half time whistle was about to be blown, they doubled that advantage to take a 2-0 lead. The second half proved to be as equally tight as the opening 30 mins, and with no goals being scored, it was that first half performance proved to be the difference as Ards Rangers claimed a 2-0 win, the win taking them up to 7thin the division. The final game saw strugglers 43rd Dundonald II up against midtable Groomsport III, but with the reverse fixture seeing the teams draw 3-3, would we be seeing another tight battle despite 18 points separating them at start of play! We had to wait until late in the game for the deadlock to be broken, but it came on 73 mins as Stephen Harris gave 43rd Dundonald the lead and that strike proved decisive as 43rd Dundonald held on to claim a narrow 1-0 win, only their 5th win of the season, to be within sight of getting out of the bottom two.

Sittlington Cup

Tuesday saw one game in this competition and brought together Premier Division giants Greenwell Star and Clonduff for the second time in a matter of days, with Greenwell claiming the Billy Allen semifinal just a few days earlier, so they’d have been looking to maintain their charge towards a treble this season. Greenwell had won both previous encounters this season, but could it be third time lucky for Clonduff as they looked to end Greenwell’s hold on this trophy! Two late first half goals saw Clonduff claim a 2-0 half time lead, but 10 mins into the second half Greenwell would reduce that deficit to leave this one finely balanced. The game though was decided in the final 5 mins as Jordan Robinon gave Clonduff a 2-goal cushion again and this time they saw the game out by way of a 3-1 scoreline to book their place in the smifinal, where they’ll meet Premier Division rivals North Down for a place in the final. Can they claim silverware for the second season running!

Frank Moore Cup

Tuesday saw two games in this competition as teams looked to book their place in the quarter final. Comber Star had claimed an impressive scalp I the previous round as they beat Premier Division giants Newtownards RBL, so they’d have maybe saw this cup competition as a chance of a cup run. This week saw them up against fellow Division 2 outfit Holywood III, who they’d already beaten twice in the league, so could they make it three out of three, or would it be third time lucky for Holywood! Comber would have been regarded as favourites in this one, but a goal late in each half from Conor Burns, was to see Holywood avenge those earlier defeats as they claimed a 2-0 win to book their quarter final slot, were they will face Division 1 leaders Castle for a place in the semifinal. The second game was another all Division 2 clash as Clarawood entertained Agape. Agape had won the league encounter between the teams 2-1, but having suffered a heavy league defeat on Saturday, would that impact on Agape’s challenge in this competition! The first half would prove to be a tight affair, with only a Paul Hamilton effort 15 mins from half time separating the teams as Agape edged themselves in front. Clarawood struck early in the second period as a Darren McKibbin effort drew the team’s level, but two unfortunate own goals plus a second gol from Hamilton was to turn the game in Agapes advantage as they sealed a 5-1 win to book a quarterfinal slt against either Portavogie Rangers II or Ards Rangers III. Can Agape get their hands back on the trophy they won in the 2014/15 season!

Mervyn Bassett Cup

This weekend saw the semifinals of this year’s competition involving two Reserve Division 1 teams and 2 Reserve Division 2 teams. Holders Clonduff II were up against Reserve Division 2 title and promotion challengers Carryduff Colts IV, so it was a great opportunity for Carryduff to gauge themselves against one of the best reserve team outfits. Clonduff were regarded as favourites, albeit I expected Carryduff to give the a good run for their money, but this one proved a lot more one sided than expected, with a Jake Ryley brace leading the holders to an emphatic 6-1 win to book their place in the final. So, who would they meet! The other semifinal saw a Bangor derby, as 3rd Bangor II from Reserve Division 1 took on title and promotion challengers from Reserve Division 2 Castle II. 3rdBangor have found themselves involved in a relegation battle this season, so with Castle riding high in Reserve Division 2, I’d have made them slight favourites in this one and they duly delivered as two first half strikes saw them build a 2-0 advantage by the interval. However, 3rd Bangor struck quickly in the second half to reduce that deficit to 2-1, only to find themselves 2 goals behind again a few moments later as James Adair grabbed a third for Castle. However, 3rd Bangor showed their fighting spirit as the reduced the deficit to one again through Jordan Vance and had an opportunity to level the tie up from the penalty mark, only for the spot kick to be missed and that seemed to inspire Castle, as a further 2 goals from Adair to complete his hattrick and a 90th min strike from Jason Wassall, was to see Castle book their place in the final were it should prove to be a classic final against the current holders. There was a moment of history though in this fixture, with the first female, Orla Russell, taking charge of a DAWFL semifinal and she has since been confirmed as part of the referee team for the final, so once again creating history, so well done to Orla.

Tommy Murphy Memorial Shield Midweek Games

Thursday night saw 43rdDundonald II entertain Ballygowan II in Group 1. With 43rd Dundonald struggling in Reserve Division 2 and Ballygowan riding high in Reserve Division 1, the away team were regarded as firm favourites in this one as they duly delivered in emphatic style as a 5 goal glut from Andrea Zuccarelli and a brace apiece from Christopher Boyle and Andrew Strain saw Ballygowa coast to the points courtesy of a 10-2 win, which must surely book their place in the quarterfinal, or will Greenwell Star II gazump that score when they meet 43rdDundonald! Group 2 brought together Groomsport III and North Down II, and with North Down pushing for the Reserve Division 1 title this season, they’d have entered this one as firm favourite, but despite taking a first half lead through Lee Maxwell, a second half penalty around the hour mark saw Groomsport claim a share of the spoils to book their place in the quarterfinal. In Group 3. Comber YM II were looking to put a disappointing season behind them by starting well in this competition. Thursday saw them up against fellow Reserve Division 1 outfit Vision Athletic II and with a win apiece this season, a tight battle was expected and so it proved, with Vision claiming a narrow 3-2 win to set up a winner takes all clash against Belvoir II in their next match. In Group 4 we had two matches this week, with Victoria Athletic II up against Queens Grads IV on Tuesday and Comber Star II entertaining Victoria Athletic II on Thursday. Victoria needed a win to stand any chance of getting through to the next round, but with Queens Grads having claimed a narrow win in the league, I’d have made them slight favourites in this one, but the margin of victory proved a lot wider in this one as a 5-goal glut from Ronan Wright and a brace from Leandro Delgado saw them claim a commanding 7-0 win. With Queens winning, Comber Star II only needed a point or better to book their quarterfinal slot and with Victoria losing heavily just 2 days previous, they’d have been regarded as firm favourites in this one and they duly delivered with a goal in each half to claim a 2-0 win and passage to the quarterfinal stage. Tuesday saw the first game on Group 5 and saw Reserve Division 2 rivals Carryduff Colts IV and 8thOB II up against each other. Carryduff had won both league encounters this season so would have been regarded as favourites to take the points, but the game proved to be a tight battle as they played out a 3-3 draw to start the competition with a point apiece. Tuesday saw Ards Rangers IV up against 3rdBangor II in Group 6 with a win for Ards Rangers securing their place in the quarterfinal, but it proved to be a tight affair resulting in a 0-0 draw and a hare of the spoils. With Ards Rangers IV dropping points, the advantage then moved to 3rd Bangor II who had a chance on Thursday to book their place in the quarterfinal. This game saw them up against Agape Swifts, who had already been eliminated, but could they stop 3rd Bangor progressing! The first half proved a tight affair, with the score 1-1 at the break, but a better second half showing saw 3rd Bangor claim a 4-2 win and in doing so book their place in the quarterfinal, so heartbreak for Ards Rangers IV. There were two games in Group 7 this week. Tuesday saw Ballynafeigh Breda Star II up against Corrymeela II, and with Corrymeela struggling in Reverse Division 1 I expected this one to be a tight affair, but it proved anything but as a dominant performance, led by a brace from Ronan McGrath, saw Corrymeela start off with a comfortable 5-1 win. The second game on Thursday saw Millisle II looking to start this competition off on a positive note. With Ballynafeigh losing just a ouple of days earlier, would that have a bearing on the outcome! The two league games between the two outfits had proved to be tight affairs, with Ballynafeigh holding the upper hand with a win and a draw, but it was to prove to be third time lucky as a Richard Donald hattrick was to see Millisle come out on top, the third of his goals coming deep into added time as Millisle sealed a narrow 4-3 win to set up a winner takes all battle in their final group game against Corrymeela. Thursday night saw 2 Group 8 games and saw an all Reserve Division 1 clash and an all Reserve Division 2 clash. The Reserve Division 1 clash saw Clonduff II entertaining Newtownards RBL II, with a win for Clonduff all but surely booking their place in the quarterfinal. The teams had met twive in the league, with one win each, but since the turn of the year Newtownards RBL had hit a poor run of form, so Clonduff started this one as firm favourite. Newtownards RBL started off well and duly took the lead as early as the 5th min through a rare goal from Phil Daly and that lead was still intact by the interval. However, Clonduff came on strong in the second half with three goals of their own to move into a 3-1 lead, but Newtownards RBL were to show they weren’t lying down and duly set up a tense finish to the game from the penalty mark with 9 mins remaining, but it proved too little too late as Clonduff made ir 2 wins from two courtesy of a 3-2 win to put one foot into the next round. The second game saw Willowfield Parish 10thOB Athletic looking to claim their first points in the group as Lagan Swifts II made their first appearance in the competition. With Lagan being the higher ranked team, they would have been regarded as favourites in this one, and they duly delivered in emphatic style as a brace apiece from Harry Bickerstaff and Kyle Doherty saw them claim a commanding 702 win, so can they beat Clonduff II in their next game to take this group outcome to the final game scheduled for 13th April!

Weekend Game

There was only one game at the weekend which saw a Group 8 game between Newtownards RBL II and Willowfield Parish 10th OB Athletic. Willowfield had knocked Newtownards RBL out of the Mervyn Bassett Cup, so they’d have been hopeful of making it a cup double. Willowfield had lost their opening two games in the competition, so had already been eliminated from the competition, but could Newtownards RBL give themselves a glimmer of hope of progressing, having lost during the week. A strong dominant first half showing saw Newtownards RBL build a 3-0 advantage, but a scrappy second half saw a much more even contest, with each scoring one, so by way of a 4-1 win, Newtownards RBL earned heir first points of the competition and will be hoping that Lagan Swifts II beat Clonduff II on Tuesday to take the outcome of this group into the last game on Thursday when both Newtownards RBL and Lagan Swifts will still have a chance of progressing.


So the games are coming thick and fast, and this week has seen hearts broken, relegation battles raging away, history being made as we head towards the conclusion of this seasons competitions. In the Premier Division, Greenwell Star continue to lead the way with Ballygowan and Newtownards RBL sitting just 2 points adrift, but with Greenwell holding an unblemished league record and games in hand, surely, it’s theirs to lose! At the bottom end, the relegation battle rages on with it looking like any two from Comber YM, Portavogie Rangers II and 8th OB suffering the dreaded drop, but with Portavogie & 8th OB holding games in hand over Comber, will those games prove crucial in their survival battles! In Division 1, Castle widened their gap at the top, with Millisle edging into second place, with Comber Rec III and Newtown Forest in close contention, but with games in hand, can Ballynafeigh Breda Star overtake them all to take this division into an exciting finish with Castle similar to last seasons Division 2 battle! At the other end of the table, it’s still undecided who will join Bangor Swifts III in Division 2 next season, with only 3 points separating Groomsport II, 43rd Dundonald & Queens Grads III, so which one will suffer the drop and which two will save themselves! In Division 2 we have an exciting climax to this season’s title and promotion battle. Comber Star started the weekend favourites to win the title, but a last gasp equaliser saw the initiative move to the chasers. Willowfield Parish 10th OB made the most of Comber’s dropped points as they moved themselves to the summit, but with Agape also winning, the destination of this season’s title is still in the balance with Agape needing to win their last 2 games to edge Willowfield to that title on goal difference. The second automatic promotion spot is also in the balance, because nothing other than 2 wins will see Agape gaining promotion, never mind the title, with any dropped points seeing Comber Star promoted as runners up, so could we see Agape edge that battle to see Comber Star missing out having been in the top two for most of the season, or will the games oming thick and fast see Agape coming up short! An exciting climax coming up over the next week in this division. In Reserve Division 1, North Down II moved closer to winning their first Reserve Division 1 title, with a potential title decider with reigning champions Clonduff II to come, or will we see Greenwell Star II edging both out to the title! In the relegation battle, only 4 points separate the bottom 4 teams with only a few games left to play, so which two from 3rd Bangor II, Corrymeela II, Vision Athletic II and Comber YM II will go down! In Reserve Division 2, it’s still mathematically possible for any of the top 6 to win this season’s title, so this one looks like going to the wire. In the cup competitions, Greenwell Star lost the chance of completing a treble as they lost their grip on the Sittlington Cup. With Clonduff II and Castle II booking their place in the first Reserve team competition. Monday will see the Billy Allen Memorial Shield Final at Comber Rec’s Park Way pitch, which seems a fitting venue seeing as Billy was from Comber, so can Greenwell claim their first main trophy of the season, or will we see Ballynafeigh win their first cup competition! Kick off 14:00, so hope to see a big crowd down watching.


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