Substitutes Robert Taaffe and Darren McMullan proved the matchwinners for promotion chasing Ardee Celtic as they came out on top of a pulsating Ardee Derby against Square United – winning 3-2.
Three second half strikes were enough for the Deesiders to extend their unbeaten run in Ardee derbies to five matches and to maintain their promotion push with just five games of the campaign remaining.
After Robbie Reynolds free kick from wide went all the way in to equalise Andrew Egan’s first half effort, Celtic had a couple of substitutes to thank for putting them in command. Robert Taaffe and then Darren McMullan made it 1-3 to the visitors before Mark Quinn’s reply.
As ever, the Ardee derby provided goals and plenty of incident. There’s now been 33 goals scored in the last six league and cup clashes between the sides. As has been the case for the last two years now however, it’s the men from Townparks who retain the edge.
OMP United beat Athboy 2-0 earlier on Sunday afternoon and with Enfield Celtic and Black Bull not in action, Celtic now find themselves second in the division – just one point off the summit.
Robbie Reynolds’ set piece prowess is well known by now and just four minutes in, he had an opportunity to set his range. The full back whipped in a free kick from the left which beat everyone, except Stefan Halpenny who was on hand on the line to head clear.
The home side – despite taking only two points at the Boys School Field all year – have shown in recent displays they have the ability to mix it with teams higher up the division and did so on Sunday afternoon. Brian Corcoran sent a shot wide on 10 minutes in Square’s first show of attacking endeavour.
Then, he got to the byline and pulled the back for Jonny Sheridan but the returning midfielder got his effort all wrong. From a return ball, his header was no threat to Declan Butler’s goal.
One of United’s weapons going forward is the rocket like throws of Corcoran. He gave the bumper crowd a glimpse of his throwing ability after 20 minutes when his delivery was headed on by Chris Kelly and tipped around the post by Butler.
It was from the resultant corner that the opening goal came. McNeil’s delivery fell to Egan at the near post and he hammered home from close range for what was his fourth strike of the campaign and his third against Ardee Celtic. It was a deserved goal.
Minutes later, it could have been 2-0. Egan met Kian Moran’s free kick but his headed effort was easy for the goalkeeper in grey. Reynolds hit another free just wide of the post and Gareth Kane missed the target after a strong run into the area as Celtic probed for a first half leveller.
Square though were well in the game. Egan’s movement saw him dash clear of Kenneth Thornton and through on goal but the defender made it difficult and Egan couldn’t trouble Butler. He should have done better. McNeil then also looked to run through on goal but again Thornton did well, narrowing the angle as the winger blasted over.
Paul Carrie was a surprise choice in the number nine shirt for Ardee Celtic and he dropped into midfield as the first half drew to a close. Just prior to the whistle, Kelly narrowly failed to reach McNeil’s left wing cross.
As the second half began, clear cut chances were at a premium although referee Conor Byrne gave both sides countless set piece chances – opportunities that weren’t being taken until shortly before the hour.
Reynolds’ free kick from wide on the left went all the way in without getting a touch from defender or attacker. It was a cheap goal for Square to concede, the right footed delivery seemingly deceiving everyone in the area. It’s the second free kick Reynolds has scored against United this term – and it’s debatable whether he meant either.
Four minutes later, the game had turned on it’s head. Taaffe was on the field for five minutes and gleefully capitalised on Moran’s error. The midfielder failed to clear Lorcan Myles cross and Taaffe was on hand to drill the ball past Vincent Clinton for 1-2.
Square continued to push despite the setback, with Corcoran’s throw ins causing particular havoc. Jonny Sherdan’s low free kick was hit straight at Butler and Moran squared the ball across the six yard box where no one was there to turn in.
Another substitute, McMullan, made it 1-3 with eight minutes to play. He turned in a cross from the left with a superb, sweetly struck left footed volley. Square heads’ bowed but within a minute it was 2-3. Mark Quinn’s outstretched leg turned the ball past Butler to set up a frantic finish.
Square never really looked like blowing the Ardee Celtic house down in four minutes of added on time, much of which was played in the Square defensive third. Square remain rooted in that relegation scramble towards the foot.
SQUARE UNITED: Vincent Clinton; Darren Henry, Stefan Halpenny, Andy Rogers, Martin Duffy; Jonny Sheridan, Kian Moran (Jamie McKenny, 80), Brian Corcoran, Andrew Egan, Darren McNeil; Chris Kelly (Mark Quinn, 72).
ARDEE CELTIC: Declan Butler; Graham Tighe, Kenneth Thornton, Robbie McNeice, Robbie Reynolds; Mikey Nulty, Paul Matondo (Niall Sharkey, 75), Gareth Kane (Darren McMullan, 79), Lorcan Myles (Darren Hickey, 90), Eddie Burke (Robert Taaffe, 56); Paul Carrie.