East End United A0
THREE more points saw Evergreen A stay clear at the top of the Premier Division, but what price will defeat bring for East End?
Despite four goals, Sunday’s game in Bennettsbridge was over-shadowed by an altercation between referee Tom Walsh and a supporter.
The row started in injury-time, by which stage East End had lost David and Wayne Dowling to second yellow card offences. The incensed supporter encroached on the pitch and was asked to leave the ground – but didn’t go far enough for the match official, who then appeared to abandon the game in stoppage time. However, the result was subsequently confirmed by the League.
It was a strange end to a game which had fizzed along at a good pace, but also had some heat to it. For Evergreen it was important to get a result on what has been a bogey ground in recent seasons, while the hosts were determined to get something from the only side to beat them in the league this term.
The game took off at a fierce pace but it was the visitors, backed by a strong breeze, who nearly grabbed the lead inside 60 seconds. Centre-half Robbie Quan almost got on the scoresheet when a free from his own half beat ’keeper Patrick O’Neill, but the ball cannoned off the underside of the bar and bounced out.
As it was, it didn’t take them much longer to find the opener. With Chris Whearty and Jamie Owens standing over a free out on the left wing the delivery was certain to be good. The ball was floated across the box, where Vinny O’Brien headed it across the face of goal for David Grincell to add the finishing touch at the far post.
Evergreen were good for that lead, but almost coughed up an equaliser on 11 minutes. Netminder Pierce Dargan was fortunate to see just a yellow when he brought down Paul Murphy on the edge of his box when the striker looked to be clean through. It was a chance for United, but Brian Lannon drilled his free-kick straight into the wall.
Evergreen had the lion’s share of chances for the remainder of the half, but couldn’t extend their lead. Chris Whearty used the breeze to crash a corner off the crossbar, while Grincell went close with a 32nd minute shot that flew over.
Grincell had another chance to double his tally and Evergreen’s lead just three minutes before the break.
Played through by Jamie Owens’ excellent threaded diagonal ball, the striker burst forward and fired a low hard shot goalwards, but Patrick O’Neill made a strong right-handed stop to keep his side in the game.
With the breeze now at their backs East End had hopes of turning the screw on Evergreen, but the wind was quickly taken from their sails within two minutes of the restart.
Awarded a free close to goal, Tommy Earls caught East End off-guard with a quick ball to Vinny O’Brien. The midfielder sped through, pausing only to fire a low shot past O’Neill.
East End were stunned, but tried their best to hit back. Wayne Dowling prised Evergreen open with a great ball clipped with the outside of his right foot, but although Paul Murphy beat his marker he couldn’t get past Pierce Dargan.
That missed chance proved costly when O’Brien struck again with 20 minutes to go. Robbie Quan started the move, floating a ball from the centre circle for Tommy Earls to fire across the box. David Grincell’s header brought a good save from O’Neill, but he was powerless to prevent O’Brien from snapping up the rebound.
The hosts kept pressing, but couldn’t get the better of Dargan. Paul Murphy went close – really close – with a bullet-like diving header, but Dargan pulled off a great save to maintain his clean sheet.
O’Brien then rounded off a memorable day when he wrapped up his hat-trick with seven minutes to go. Haven taken a quick corner, O’Brien worked a one-two with Grincell before driving a low shot through a sea of legs to the net.
It would have been a fitting end to the game – but the biggest talking point was still to come...
East End United A: Patrick O’Neill, Robbie Ryan, Andy Lowry (Danny Kinsella, 71 mins), David Dowling, Wayne Clowry, Nicky Cleere, Willie Walsh (Mick O’Neill, 55 mins), Wayne Dowling, Paul Murphy, Brian Lannon, Hugh O’Neill.
Evergreen A: Pierce Dargan, Tommy Earls (Sammy Johnston, 78 mins), Jack Poyntz, Mathew Wong, Robbie Quan, Declan McQuillan (Andrew Hickey, 71 mins), Vinny O’Brien, Niall Andrews, David Grincell, Jamie Owens, Chris Whearty (Seamie Cummins, 78 mins).
Referee: Tom Walsh.