Ricky Copeland’s last-minute winner saw Loughgall book their place in the Tennents Irish Cup Quarter Finals, for the second time in three seasons, where the Villagers will face Glenavon. The victory over Ards at Lakeview Park provided real entertainment with a late goal and three red cards for the visitors.
The win, Loughgall’s fifth in a row, capped off a great week for Dean Smith’s side as they also cemented their place in the Bluefin Sport Championship top six with a stunning 5-1 victory away to Dergview last Tuesday.
The visitors made the best possible start and were ahead after only 45 seconds when Luke Kelly curled into the top corner from outside the penalty area.
Ards’ ‘keeper Sam Johnston had to be alert on 18 minutes to quickly reduce the angle when Nathaniel Ferris broke through the middle of the pitch and save with his feet.
On 22 minutes the Newtownards side missed a gilt-edged chance when Ross Clarke’s low cross was cushioned by Cameron Stewart for Guillaume Keke. The striker somehow managed to miss an open net when he hit the bar from within the six-yard box with Loughgall ‘keeper Gareth Buchanan on the ground.
Loughgall levelled from the penalty spot through ex-Ards striker Gary Liggett after Michael Ruddy fouled Peter Campbell.
The game irreversibly changed during the opening 15 minutes of the second period when Ards saw two red cards being brandished. Firstly Kyle Cherry received two yellow cards in quick succession and then Ruddy was dismissed for a two-footed lunge on Dale Montgomery.
The hosts tried hard to break down a resolute Ards side with the best chance falling to Peter Campbell on 79 minutes when substitute Marc McConnell’s low cross across the face of goal evaded everyone until Campbell’s weak effort at the back post was saved by goalkeeper Johnston.
With two minutes remaining Ross Clarke also saw a straight red card for another two-footed challenge to cap a miserable debut for the on-loan Linfield winger. And his side’s defensive resolve was broken two minutes into injury time in frantic fashion when Montgomery’s cross was headed off the crossbar by Liggett. The ball rebounded to Ferris who hit the post and it was Ricky Copeland who showed the Loughgall strike force how to do it with a finish from close range.
Loughgall: Buchanan, Montgomery, Ballard (Hoey 73m), Copeland, Stewart, Mullen (McConnell 65m), Campbell, Ferguson, Dallas, Liggett, Ferris. Unused subs: Robinson, Stretton, Neill, Finlay.
Ards: Johnston, Glendinning, Byers, Taylor, Ruddy, Clarke, Josh Kelly, Cherry, McAllister (Hanley 63m), Keke (McLellan 65m), Stewart (Davidson 53m).