Mallards U18 find the final going tough

Gareth Carruthers and TJ Murray tear up the field as they race for the ball.

Gareth Carruthers and TJ Murray tear up the field as they race for the ball.

Ballinamallard Youth 1
Linfield Rangers 3

Ballinamallard Youth went down 3-1 to a very strong Linfield Rangers outfit in the final of this year’s Harry Cavan Cup at Stangmore Park, Dungannon on Friday evening.

The  Fisher Park outfit found the going tough from the start against a side which included four teenagers already in Linfield’s senior squad this season.

Straight from the first whistle the Belfast outfit made their presence felt with their strength and sharpness.

Ballinamallard worked hard to gain possession, but couldn’t hold the ball for long periods to build any sustained attacks in the first half.

Linfield showed their intentions from early on with shots on the Ballinamallard goal, but good tackles from Alastair Woods, Gareth Carruthers and Lee McNulty kept the game scoreless.

At the other end Josh McIlwaine got through the Linfield defence on the right side before cutting in to unleash a stinging low effort across keeper and just wide of the post.
Despite working tirelessly in the first half the Ballinamallard outfit conceded after 25 minutes.

A good ball came in from the right wing to the near post.

Rodney Brown controlled and as the ball bounced up he turned superbly to volley high past keeper Karl Fallis and into the top corner.

Central defender Lee McNulty was harshly booked after what seemed a perfectly good challenge to head clear on the half way line.

That booking was to prove costly towards the end of the game when McNulty received a second yellow for a late tackle.

Linfield’s second goal came at a perfect time, with just one minute left of the first half.

Ballinamallard had been on the attack and won a corner, but Jake Smith’s delivery was intercepted and Linfield broke quickly down the right side.

As Ballinamallard players tried to get back the counter attack seemed to have been dealt with but a neat pass found Conor McMenamin on the edge of the penalty area to shoot low, just inside the far post.

In the second half Ballinamallard looked much brighter and took the game to Linfield from the first whistle. Indeed the Blues were soaking up plenty of Ballinamallard pressure for long periods of the half

Excellent play from Gary Phair and Jack Smith set up Adam Wallace for a strike on goal.

Ballinamallard began to find spaces down the flanks with the introduction of Jason Cluff.

The quick paced winger had the Linfield backline on its heels as he provided good service to McIlwaine and Wallace.

But they were rocked back on their heels when they conceded a third against the run of play.

Caught on the break Ballinamallard couldn’t deal with Linfield’s pace and when the ball eventually arrived to Piarais Webb on the corner of the 18 yard box he drilled a good strike just inside the near post on 85 minutes.

Ballinamallard continued to pile on the pressure in the closing minutes and were rewarded when winger Jason Cluff headed home a consolation goal in the dying minutes.

Manager Ray Sanderson said after the game:

“Tonight we were beaten by the better team. Linfield were stronger and quicker to the ball.

“My players deserve credit for working tirelessly throughout the game and were rewarded with a goal near the end.

“It was a learning experience. They have come a long way in a few years, but know that there is more to do.”

Fallis, Woods, Carruthers, McNulty, D. Elliott, Phair, Bruce, Wallace, J.Smith, Courtney, McIlwaine.
Subs: Simpson, Cluff, J. Smith, P. Elliott, Cutler


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