Ardee Celtic took a giant step towards promotion to the NEFL Premier Division on Sunday afternoon as Mikey Nulty’s 85th minute goal earned the 10-men a 2-1 win over strugglers Trim Town.
It looked as if the Ardee men would be frustrated in their attempts to keep pace with leaders OMP United but instead, Nulty’s goal added to Lorcan Myles’ second half leveller as they came from behind to win.
Celtic’s attempt to come back after Trim’s first half goal appeared doomed when midfielder Paul Matondo was dismissed on 79 minutes. However, in spite of the numerical disadvantage, the come-from-behind win sent Ardee Celtic top of the division for a few hours at least. The win is all the more important given the absentees on the day. Robbie Reynolds, Niall Sharkey, Robbie McNeice, Robert Taaffe and Darren McMullan were among the absentees.
The Deesiders had played just once in six weeks due to fixtures being postponed and rescheduled prior to today’s game. Aside from their Ardee Derby win two weeks ago, Celtic’s last assignment outside of the town was their 4-2 win over Johnstown back in February.
Against Trim – who started the day in the bottom three and ended it even more entrenched in the mire – the visitors started sluggishly. Trim’s Alan O’Brien had the game’s first opportunity but Declan Butler easily saved.
Both sides traded opportunties thereafter, Paul Carrie’s shot went wide of Mick McCarthy’s post while Niall Conlon, starting for the first time for the first team this term, saw a free kick and a long range effort from play saved. For the hosts, Martin Costello’s volley was saved by Butler.
Ardee Celtic were having the better of the play, but they fell behind just after the half hour mark. Afer the concession of a soft free kick, Dean Courtney fired into the top corner to leave Butler beaten.
Before the break, Myles headed Graham Tighe’s left wing cross over the bar before again Conlon threatened from a set piece. This time, it was tipped over by McCarthy.
Myles’ 57th minute equaliser was just reward for Ardee Celtic’s endeavours. Nulty met Conlon’s throw. His flick on fell to Myles who turned the defender and shot past the keeper.
Sub Stuart Osbourne went close to giving the away side the lead within minutes of his introduction and it looked like missed opportunities would cost them ten minutes from the end. Paul Matondo received a second yellow card after an aerial duel with Craig Peppard.
On 85 minutes, Mikey Nulty scored a stunning winner. After Conlon’s corner was cleared, the ever-present midfielder lashed in a volley which hit the underside of the crossbar on it’s way in.
An injury to Trim goalkeeper McCarthy contributed to eight minutes of injury time being played but Ardee Celtic saw it out to briefly return to the top of the division. Later wins for Enfield Celtic and OMP United – against Square in Ardee – means Ardee Celtic finish the weekend where they started it, in third.
But this win was a big one. With four games left, promotion and the title is in the Deesiders’ hands. They play another struggler Torro away next Sunday and still need to face OMP before the season’s end.
It was fitting that Myles – who is now the team’s outright top goalscorer this season with eight goals – and Nulty got the goals today. Arguably, that duo have been Celtic’s best performers throughout the campaign. They will continue to be vital as the season reaches it’s end.
ARDEE CELTIC: Declan Butler, Eddie Burke, Kenneth Thornton, Fintan Clarke, Graham Tighe, Paul Matondo, Mikey Nulty, Paul Carrie, Lorcan Myles, Tristan Knowles, Niall Conlon.
Subs: Stuart Osbourne, Kian Carroll, Paul McArdle