Stars shine over Orchard
Tuesday, 25 March 2014
THE biggest Premier League game of the season so far, played in Derryleckagh on Saturday, edged Windmill in front as championship contenders when they beat the other favourites Orchard City.
It was a convincing win by Stars as they put a halt to Orchard's unstoppable form and they were equally delighted to keep a clean sheet as they collected the points.
“All-round we had a good game today. We just kept doing what we've been doing all season, we hit the crossbar twice too in the second half. We couldn't get the third to kill off the game but that's about 10 or 12 clean sheets we've kept this year so we're really happy," said manager Kieran McParland.
Orchard came into this game on a high, having won the Bessbrook Cup the previous Friday under the lights at the Newry Showgrounds.
They followed that victory with another win against Sandy Hill in Armagh on Wednesday evening that sent them into the Mid-Ulster Shield final against Windmill on April 22.
However, it took the Orchard men extra-time to see off Sandy Hill when Deckie Carville banged in his second goal to break the deadlock and finish the semi-final 2-1.
That made it six goals in two matches for Carville but he was kept quiet in this game and Orchard's stamina may well have been affected by a hectic schedule of late, including that long Wednesday night.
“The game on Wednesday wouldn't have helped them I suppose but our lad's fitness is superb. We've no big names but they're all young lads, they are super fit and they work hard for themselves and for each other as well so that's a big help," said McParland.
Orchard arrived in good time, organised and efficient as ever, and camped out over on the road side of the pitch - the side that Windmill traditionally occupy. The psychological game had begun already it would seem but when the teams took to the field it didn't seem to matter much.
The game seemed fairly evenly matched from the off, played with plenty of speed and skill, as would be expected from these talented group of players.
There were few clear-cut chances at either end and Carville definitely wasn't given the space he's been used to recently, especially with the superb Jackie Cunningham in excellent form at the back, clearing more than his fair share of balls both off the ground and in the air.
Windmill's first goal came on 22 minutes when Conor McKeown stole the ball in the middle of the park and played over to Ryan Devlin. Price came out to meet the ball but Devlin stroked it past him into the back of the net.
Orchard, not familiar with being on the back foot but well aware that the opposition were probably the strongest they've met all season, continued to try pressing forward but Windmill remained steadfast at the back.
Orchard had a penalty appeal denied and in fact the man who went to ground in the area, Keith Johnston, was booked for diving. It was difficult to see from the side-line but the referee had a good view and he seemed fair to both sides throughout as John Joe Maguire was booked minutes later for a heavy tackle on Stephen Daly.
The best chance of the half for Orchard came from Lee Feeney who produced a wonderful bullet of a strike that forced Paddy Hearty into and equally wonderful reflexive tip over the bar. The resultant corner came to nothing and the next opportunity was Windmill's when Paddy Farrell, who normally comes on as a sub but started in this one and had a great game, launched a long ball into the area which was eventually cleared by Orchard.
Clifford Sterritt's men pressed hard for the equaliser before the half-time whistle but it proved elusive.
The second half was only minutes old when Josh McKeown showed some great ball-work in the Orchard box before passing to Conor Shields who slammed in the second goal of the game.
Johnny Black and Micky Green replaced Keith Johnston and Peter Markey as Orchard went into attack mode, but Windmill looked increasingly the stronger of the two teams and the past week's work seemed to finally take its toll on the Orchard men.
Carville did have a great chance to nick one back following a lovely cross from Feeney but his finish flew wide, and he headed another over the top minutes later.
Windmill came even closer however when Dixie Devlin rattled the crossbar with a powerful shot from nowhere and McKeown did likewise with 10 minutes to go.
Windmill played out those last 10 minutes a man short when Maguire was given his marching orders after a second yellow, but Orchard didn't look like resurrecting the game at that stage and the score-line stood.
McParland was delighted with the win but wasn't prepared to count it as a significant milestone as he said: "It's only another three points, there's still a long way to go yet. We need to keep on winning because unfortunately, as we have done in the past, we seem to beat the big teams then drop points against the lesser teams."
It's still all to play for then as six points now separate the sides. Orchard have a game in hand and both teams are a long way behind the rest of the pack at only the half-way mark.
WINDMILL STARS: Paddy Hearty, Paddy Farrell, Ciaran O'Neill, Ruairi Cunningham, Conor McKeown, Ryan Devlin, John Joe Maguire, Joe McLoughlin, Josh McKeown, Conor Shields and Gareth White. Subs: Barry Quinn, Damien O'Hare, Gavin Quinn, Adrian Barry and John O'Hanlon.
ORCHARD CITY: Joe Price, Peter Markey, Chris Havern, Declan Allistar, Kevin Henry, Lee Feeney, Stephen Wylie, Keith Johnston, Stephen Daly, Thomas McCann and Declan Carville. Subs: Paul Walsh, Phillip McNally, Michael Green, Johnathon Black and Jason Niblock.
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