A SUNDAY morning goal-fest saw Stoneyford United put clear daylight between themselves and the relegation pack, while at the same time maintaining their outside hopes of promotion from Division One.
James Moran was on target four times on a beautiful sunny January morning as their opponents Spa United couldn’t deal with the pace, class and movement of the Stoneyford attack. Gerry Mulcahy shone on the left wing while Moran’s strike partner Rory Dunne was a constant threat.
Both teams have just three games remaining, but while Stoneyford’s victory moved them into joint third place with Newpark, Spa United are looking anxiously over their shoulder. They could do with producing a strong finish to ease the fears of relegation.
It was action-packed the whole way through, with Stoneyford making the breakthrough as early as the fourth minute. James Moran hit an impressive opener, unleashing a 25-yard shot that proved unstoppable.
Moran should have doubled the lead in the 14th minute when set up by Johnny Roche but he blazed over the crossbar. That spurned chance looked costly, as Spa United replied in the 24th minute.
Attacking down the right, Kevin Power attempted to play the ball back across the face of the goal. However, it took a deflection off a Stoneyford defender ending up in the net as Spa drew level.
Stoneyford responded in firm fashion, regaining their lead just four minutes later.
A long goal-kick upfield saw Rory Dunne race through. He cracked his shot against the crossbar that went over the goal line.
The lead was doubled in the 33rd minute when the ever-threatening winger Gerry Mulcahy cut loose from inside the left and rifled home a cracking strike.
Stoneyford were running riot, and after Spa United right-back Kevin Ryan brilliantly intercepted a possible Stoneyford goal when Johnny Roche was about to shoot, they extended the lead even further in the 49th minute.
They won a free-kick when Mulcahy was fouled.
Rory Dunne stepped up to a free-kick after Mulcahy was fouled. He curled the ball around the wall, but although Spa United goalkeeper Chris Leahy parried the shot James Moran popped up to slot home the rebound.
P.J. Ryan, Spa’s best performer, scored an impressive free-kick on the hour mark to narrow the deficit. The goal seemed to reignite Spa, who then enjoyed a good phase of possession.
It should have been 4-3 in the 65th minute when Conor Tobin’s cross from the left-wing evaded Jimmy Delaney close to the centre of the goal-line. Kieran Grehan followed up on the near post but his effort was blocked at the expense of a corner-kick that came to nothing.
Stoneyford reasserted control on the game as Moran completed his hat-trick in the 70th minute.
Conor Coffey’s cross from the right-wing was knocked down by Mulcahy into the path of Moran who finished with consummate ease.
Spa were demoralised, and Moran turned provider in the 73rd minute when setting up Rory Dunne for his second goal with the simplest of finishes.
It ensured victory, and while Kevin Power added his second goal for Spa in the 76th minute, Stoneyford sub Rob Lee’s long through ball from central midfield saw Moran spring the offside and apply the finishing touch from inside the area as the hosts recorded a magnificent seventh goal.
Deep into stoppage time, Spa United grabbed a consolation when another P.J. Ryan free found the net, but Stoney’ had already made off with the points.
Stoneyford United: Davy Cummins, Thomas O’Leary, Brian Donovan, Ciaran Roche (Mattie Hanrahan, 84 mins), Sean Gibbons, Conor Coffey (Rob Lee, 78 mins), Johnny Roche, John O’Shea, Gerry Mulcahy, Rory Dunne (Fergus Gilligan, 78 mins), James Moran.
Spa United: Christopher Leahy, Kevin Ryan, Owen Shiels, Eugene Grehan, Steve McCarthy (Jason Ryan, 60 mins), Jimmy Delaney (Aaron Fogarty, 53 mins), John Henderson, P.J. Ryan, Conor Tobin, Kieran Grehan, Kevin Power.
Referee: Tristan Eardley.