Lorcan Myles’ first half goal proved decisive as Ardee Celtic beat promotion rivals Enfield Celtic 1-0 at Townparks on Sunday afternoon – and in their first league outing of 2017, the Ardee men demonstrated just why they are tipped for end-of-season success.
The midfielder – pushed into action further forward today – struck shortly after the midway point of the first half. It was a deserved lead for the team who had shown more industry and poise in attack before the break. After it, their rearguard action left no way through for the frustrated visitors.
Having not played a league match since mid-December, this was a long overdue return to their promotion push. Early season postponements and cup committments have meant that Ardee Celtic have been playing catch-up on their main rivals for promotion for much of the campaign.
Going into the game, second-placed Enfield led the Ardee side by six points in the division albeit having played three games more. Now that deficit stands at just three and only five points separate Ardee Celtic with league leaders Black Bull. Again, the Drogheda men have played three more matches.
Dean Gaynor joined Myles in the Ardee Celtic forward line for the visit of Enfield and he had the game’s first chance of note. Six minutes had passed when after good work involving Myles and Robbie McNeice, he shot just over from the edge of the area.
The home side were on top with Paul Matondo’s close control and impudent touches in midfield key to their dominence. He allowed them to keep and manipulate the ball, bypassing Enfield’s physicality with neat play. After Nick Foster’s pot shot from distance was tipped over by Declan Butler, Celtic hit the front.
Celtic were much the better outfit in the opening 45 and fully deserved their advantage. Mikey Nulty, as ever, matched industry with efficiency on the field even in an unfamiliar wide right position. Myles was constantly looking to stretch the visitors’ backline.
He went close again five minutes prior to the break. It looked as if he and Gaynor were going to get in eachother’s way before Myles took it on. His curling effort was tipped around the post by Coyle. For Enfield, Tom Wynne hit an effort over before dragging a shot just wide of the upright.
After the break, the majority of the action was at one end – and it was Celtic on the defensive. Enfield had former League of Ireland stalwart Barry Clancy pulling strings in midfield. His quality was evident and up against it in the latter stages, discipline was key.
Butler was called into action on several occasions to make saves – but none you could consider anything other than routine. Then, captain Nathan O’Neill fluffed his big chance. When Evan Coyle pulled it back, the skipper scooped over the bar with the crowd expectant of the net bulging.
Minutes later, Wynne shot narrowly wide and then Clancy fired a free-kick just over before Dylan McDonagh missed the target. Butler took a hefty knock in blocking an Enfield striker and needed treatment. He would also come to the rescue deep into injury time, punching away what looked like a goalbound header from Alan Keller.
Before Wynne was dismissed in injury time for a second yellow card, Nulty almost scored what would have been the goal of the game, the weekend and perhaps the season. He found himself one-on-one with Brennan and volleyed a superb long range effort which beat Coyle but cleared the crossbar.
He was excellent, as was Matondo, Gaynor, Myles and the two centre backs Clarke and Thornton. The only blot on Nulty’s copybook for day the was a late booking. It was harsh, as he looked to get the ball. He certainly thought so, as did everyone in Ardee blue.
The win sees Ardee Celtic stay fourth, now just five points off leaders Black Bull after their draw with Johnstown. They have three games in hand on the top two, and have the best defence in the league. No team has lost fewer games than them. 2017 is shaping up nicely.
ARDEE CELTIC: Declan Butler, Graham Tighe, Kennth Thornton, Fintan Clarke, Robbie Reynolds, Mikey Nulty, Paul Carrie (Niall Eccles 90+1), Paul Matondo (Conor Osborne, 67), Robbie McNeice (Eddie Burke, 55), Lorcan Myles (Jackie Agnew, 79), Dean Gaynor.
Subs Not Used: Niall Sharkey, Darren McMullan, Robert Taaffe.