Ardee Celtic moved level on points with second place Enfield Celtic – and just two points off the summit of the NEFL O’Neill’s Sportswear Division One – on Sunday as goals from Lorcan Myles, Graham Tighe and Robbie Reynolds earned a 1-3 win over Kentstown Rovers at Paul Lenehen Memorial Park.
On the back of last week’s crucial and hard-fought win over their title rivals Enfield Celtic, this was a professional and clinical disposal of relegation battlers Rovers. This team – under the tutelage of Niall Taaffe, Conor Lynch and Paul Lumsden – have shipped just 12 goals in 12 games in the division.
Going into last week’s clash at Townparks, Enfield had scored 50 goals in 13 league matches – but their juggernaut was stopped by Ardee Celtic’s obdurate defence and back-to-front industry. They’ve scored fewer goals than all of their rivals in the top six – but are winning more points-per-game with those they do notch. They failed to keep another clean sheet in Kentstown but the win is still their eighth in 12 league outings.
For the second week in succession, the forward duo Dean Gaynor and Myles combined to opening the scoring. Just 10 minutes were on the clock when Gaynor slipped a ball through to Myles. A composed first touch allowed him shoot low past Kentstown stopper Eoin McConnell for 1-0.
That goal was just reward for Ardee Celtic’s show in the opening stages. Mikey Nulty shot wide just moments into the game while Gaynor and influential midfielder Paul Matondo worked McConnell with a volley and shot respectively.
The away side suffered a blow just after the half hour mark when Myles’ had to withdraw through injury. Eddie Burke took his place. By then, Kentstown had come back into the game to a degree. Jamie Lynch drew a save from Declan Butler as the Meath men enjoyed a spell of sustained pressure on the Celtic goal.
There was a response in kind to that, with midfielder Paul Carrie reaching Robert McNeice’s corner only to see header hacked off the line. Rovers’ Matthew Pouch saw his effort whistle just wide of the post soon after.
These sides last met on the opening day of Ardee Celtic’s league season – and they needed second half goals from Robert Taaffe and teenager Tristan Knowles to secure a 2-1 victory. Since then, they’ve lost just once to turn pre-season hope and early season promise into a most credible promotion push. Ardee Celtic have lost just once in league competition all season.
They never really looked like losing a second on Sunday. Three minutes before the break, Graham Tighe doubled their lead. Advancing from right back, he let fly from 20 yards. McConnell’s fingertips reached the ball but couldn’t prevent the shot from hitting the back of the net.
After a relatively quiet opening to the second half, the home team drew first blood. Striker Colin Walsh fired a low effort past Butler on 63 minutes to set Ardee nerves jangling. As is often the case after a goal, the game opened up for a period. Nulty twice went close once again, the latter denied by a fine block from Shane Gargan while Walsh went close at the other end.
John Crawley’s whistle rescued the visitors with five minutes to play. A Kentstown free kick from deep was lofted into the area and helped into the net but the official ruled it out for offside much to Rovers chagrin.
There was still time to Celtic to break away and seal the win. Paul Matondo was fouled in the area – and after a lengthy period of treatment for the 30-year-old Congolese – Reynolds stepped up to to score the third.
How The Table Looks
Two points now separate Black Bull, Enfield Celtic and Ardee Celtic at the top of the division but crucially, the Ardee man have two games more to play than their rivals. They know they’ll have to make them count.
ARDEE CELTIC: Declan Butler, Graham Tighe, Kenneth Thornton, Fintan Clarke, Robbie Reynolds, Mikey Nulty, Paul Carrie, Paul Matondo (Darren McMullan, 90), Robbie McNeice (Niall Sharkey, 69), Dean Gaynor (Robert Taaffe, 71), Lorcan Myles (Eddie Burke, 32).
Also This Weekend
On Saturday, Stuart Reynolds’ Ardee Celtic 2nd team progressed to the semi-finals of the Brady’s SEAT Reserve Cup courtesy of a 4-2 win over Kingscourt Harps at Townparks. Despite Niall Conlon’s sending off, a treble from Jackie Agnew and one from Conor McGill saw Celtic race into a 4-0 lead before Harps struck back with two late goals to give them a glimmer of hope in the latter stages but it was too late and the home side held out.
Away from home, Frank Dowdall saw his Ardee Celtic third team pick up yet another league win OMP United 3rds in the B Reserve league. Aaron Devlin’s struck from Shawni Dowdall’s cross to settle the game. The win sees the young side within striking distance of Albion Rovers at the top.
Thanks to Ardee Celtic Media Officer Padraig Wright for the updates from all of the weekend’s games.