Another clinical performance from an impressive Loughgall side condemned Ards to their second defeat in three games and ensured ex-manager Niall Currie’s return to Lakeview Park was an unhappy one.
The 2 – 1 triumph was Loughgall’s fourth successive league win and it sees them leapfrog both Ards and Newry City into second position in the Belfast Telegraph Championship 1, albeit with Newry having three games in hand.
Mark Teggart opened the scoring, in his last game for Loughgall before moving to Australia, in the first period and Greg Hall’s rifled goal on the hour mark put the Villagers in a commanding position. Ards managed to pull a goal back in stoppage time through Ross Arthurs but it was a case of too little too late.
Loughgall, again with a depleted defence – Alain Emerson continued in his unaccustomed left back spot and Paul Keenan started in central defence – had to weather an early storm as Ards started brightly however the Co Down side failed to test ‘keeper Marc Robinson in the early stages. On 8 minutes Nathan McConnell played a pass out to Craig McMillen who, from the edge of the penalty area, saw his shot deflected just over the crossbar by right back Greg Hall.
Loughgall threatened on 16 minutes when Keenan’s long pass over the visitors’ sluggish defence saw Stephen Doyle beat ‘keeper Graham McKibben to the ball before chipping it over him from the corner of the penalty area however it was cleared off the goal line.
The warning wasn’t heeded two minutes later when Dale Malone broke from the halfway line with options either side of him, the attacker slipped an incisive ball through to the left channel where Teggart was running onto and he finished confidently in off the crossbar.
In similar fashion to his Loughgall side’s playing style, Currie’s Ards outfit continually worked space on either flank before delivering dangerous crosses into the penalty area however the Loughgall defence stood firm throughout the entire first period. One of those crosses presented a chance on 41 minutes as McConnell connected with Arthurs’ delivery but his improvised effort was well saved by Robinson.
The hosts extended their advantage from a counter attack on the hour mark as ex-Ards forward Doyle controlled a clearance on the halfway line, he assessed his passing options before picking out Hall, racing down the right hand side of the pitch, who fired past ‘keeper McKibben inside his front post from the edge of the penalty area.
Ards looked to have be thrown a lifeline with 20 minutes remaining when Alain Emerson was curiously shown a red card for a sliding challenge on Mark Picking that both won the ball and couldn’t have been described as a lunge.
However the visitors man advantage was negated when they too were reduced to ten men just four minutes later as Sammy Devine was shown his second yellow card for a late challenge.
The Co Down side grabbed a late consolation when, in injury time, a whipped cross from the right flank wasn’t adequately cleared allowing Arthurs to volley home from close range.
Loughgall: Robinson, Hall, Stewart, Emerson, Willis, Hawthorne, Ferguson, Teggart (Pedlow 85m), Malone, S Doyle, Keenan. Unused subs: N Doyle, Kernaghan.
Ards: McKibben, D Cully, Pike, J Cully, Spence, Smith (McKee 66m), Devine, McMillen (Magee 66m), Picking, Arthurs, McConnell (Finlay 66m). Unused subs: Berry, McIlhagga.