Belfast & District League Premier Division
St Matthew’s secured another win and another three points on Saturday to keep them three points clear at the top of the table.
St Matt’s came flying out of the traps with two goals in the opening 15 minutes and showed no lack of rustiness after a long two-week break over Christmas.
Captain Liam Prigent scored the first goal after a great passage of play involving Smyth, Black and Boyle down the right.
Minutes later Napier made it 2-0 when he rose highest in a crowded box to head home a McVeigh corner.
At the other end the St Matt’s defence was shaky from set pieces with Pollock and Turley both clearing shots off the line before they did concede from a corner right on half time. Half-time: 2-1.
Manager Shields introduced Paul Prigent for his long awaited come back from a niggling knee injury for McVeigh at the interval.
Neither side gave an inch knowing the next goal would be vital.
It was New Santos who grabbed it to bring the scores level.
McCrory then entered the Fray, replacing Smyth, and he got involved immediately setting up Paul Prigent who smashed his shot off the bar and into the net, leaving the Santos keeper with no chance.
With ten minutes to go New Santos were gifted their third goal.
With time running out McVeigh replaced Murdock and in the dying seconds his cross was flicked on by Boyle for captain Prigent.
He hooked the ball into the net for a dramatic winner for St Matt’s.
Manager Shields wasn’t happy that his side allowed a two-goal advantage to slip away.
“I wasn’t happy that we let a two-goal lead slip but I was pleased with the attitude to score in the dying seconds.
“It shows my players play every second of the 90 and time added on.”
ST MATTHEW’S: S Turley, P Smyth, L Pollock, P Turley, J Murdock, L Prigent, K Curran, S Napier, M McVeigh, S Black, C Boyle. Subs: S McVeigh, L McCrory, P Prigent.
St Matthew’s II 2
Shamrock II 2
(Shamrock won 4-2 on penalties)
St Matthew’s bowed out of the Francis Cup in cruel fashion on Saturday but they held their heads high after a very commanding performance against a strong Shamrock side.
St Matt’s started nervously in the opening ten minutes.
They had a few new faces in the team with David Rooney in goals, Michael McDermot at left back and Paul Turley in centre midfield.
The usual centre forward McMahon moved to centre half as the team missed a number of defenders through injury.
Rooney was forced into an early save from long range then McDermot cleared the ball off the line before Shamrock eventually broke the deadlock with a well-taken free-kick leaving Rooney with no chance.
That sparked the game into life with crunching tackles being made all over the pitch.
Five minutes before half time another crunching challenge, involving Gowdy and his opposite number, resulted in a bit of handbags with the referee sending both players off.
With words from manager Walsh still ringing in their ears St Matt’s kicked themselves into gear and started to take control of the game. They got the equaliser they deserved when new boy McDermot made a surging run down the left, cut inside on his right foot before sending a rocket of a shot flying into the top corner.
With time running out Quinn and Bradley replaced JM Ward and T Ward.
Neither side gave an inch and this forced extra-time.
St Matt’s looked to have won it when Anto Meighan sent a shot flying toward the top corner only to see the keeper claw it away but the ball fell straight to Quinn who was on hand to smash it into the net.
M Ward came on for Turley but with time running out a blunder at the back sent the game into penalties.
Rooney saved the first but two misses meant Shamrock progressed to the next round.
Manager Walsh was very proud of his players.
“Penalties is a terrible way for any team to be put out of the cup but my lads gave me everything today. I couldn’t have asked for anymore,” said Walsh.
ST MATTHEW’S: D Rooney, D Bassett, S McMahon, P Carlisle, M McDermot, P Smyth, P Turley, R Gowdy, T Ward, JM Ward, A Meighan. Subs: B Bradley, G Quinn, M Ward.