Ryan Berry’s deflected strike deep into injury time saw ten-man PSNI collect all three points in a dour basement battle at Lakeview Park. The win lifts the Belfast side off the bottom of the league and leaves Loughgall in the precarious position of being only one point off the relegation places.
It was Loughgall’s first game since the appointment of Noel Mitchell and there were four changes from the side that won the Bob Radcliffe Cup final as Ross Black, Anto Burns, Colum Curtis and Jeff Brady all came into the side. Daniel Burns and Chris Kingsberry have left Lakeview Park whilst Ryan Moffatt missed out with hamstring injury and Warner Mullen was unavailable.
Loughgall had the ball in the PSNI net on 13 minutes when Jeff Brady netted from Stephen O’Neill’s through-pass however he was adjudged to be in an offside position. And on 25 minutes Brady threatened again when he collected Anto Burns’ pass before chipping onto the cross bar with goalkeeper David Harrison beaten.
PSNI were reduced to ten men after Ashton McDermott was dismissed for a two-footed challenge on Steven Ferguson on 34 minutes.
The hosts almost took advantage straight away when Mark Stewart’s powerful header from Ferguson’s corner was parried by ‘keeper Harrison at close range.
A second disallowed goal had the Loughgall fans furious on 37 minutes as Colum Curtis’ curled free-kick was glanced on by Ricky Copeland. Top goalscorer O’Neill slid in to direct the ball inside the back post however the assistant referee raised his flag to disallow the goal.
Copeland was required at the other end of the pitch when he cleared on the goal line to deny substitute Barry Moore after a dangerous set-piece just before the break.
The second period provided little in the way of quality football and it was Loughgall that went closest before the decisive goal. Mark Carson’s strong run past three defenders allowed him a good shooting opportunity from just outside the area in the 57th minute. However the full-back was unlucky as his effort narrowly missed the target.
PSNI finished the game strongest and forced a number of set-pieces of which they scored from one. The ball fell kindly for Ryan Berry inside the penalty area and his strike deflected over home goalkeeper Gareth Buchanan and into the back of the net.
Loughgall: Buchanan, Carson, Black, Stewart, Copeland, Curtis (Ferris 77m), Dallas (Kearney 52), Ferguson, A Burns, Brady, O’Neill. Unused sub: Finlay.
PSNI: Harrison, Gray, Holden (Robb 80m), McCrory, Dane, Berry, Anderson, Dobbin, Bell (Moore 39m), McDermott, McWilliams (McLaughlin 88m). Unused subs: Quinn, Macauley.