Aquinas U17s welcomed Ards Rangers to Strangford on a cold, wet and grey Monday evening.
David Montgomery manned the nets, with Marco Abbate at left back and Chris Wilson on the right. Three centre halves, Enda Fitzpatrick, Daniel Winchester and Eoin Johnston, hoped to diminish the Ards men’s attack force.
In midfield, David Moore took up his usual position on the left, with Ryan McKernan once again at right wing. In the middle of the park stood John Erskine and Conor Hughes. The lone man up front was Conor O’Donnell.
The game got off to a dream start for the South Belfast outfit when Eoin Johnston and Marco Abbate dealt with an initial Ards attack to release Conor O’Donnell with a long ball. Taking Ards by surprise, Conor drove towards the Ards 18-yard box and he found the net with three minutes on the clock.
Unfortunately, Ards responded immediately and penetrated the Aquinas defence twice in quick succession to turn the tables with less than 15 minutes gone.
A necessary shift in tactics saw Enda Fitzpatrick move to shore up a much pressurised midfield.
Ards, once more, started strongly and took the game to Aquinas.
A slippery ball, as a result of the progressively deteriorating weather, saw a long shot spilled by the keeper, who then could only watch agonisingly as a cruel bobble took it past his attempts to recover and presented it to the foot of the oncoming Ards man, who made no mistake to take the score 3–1.
Eoin and Marco were at the start of another Aquinas surge up the left which saw Conor O’Donnell carry to the edge of the Ards box before majestically chipping the oncoming Ards keeper to restrict the difference to the minimum again.
Unfortunately for the men in blue ’n’ black, Ards’ pressure paid off again and allowed the North Down men to re-establish a two-goal lead.
Another Aquinas tactical shift saw John Erskine pushed up front for the last ten minutes. The tactic paid off when he neatly converted following a through ball by Ryan. It was not enough, as Ards put another in the net although John came agonisingly close with an effort at the near post, after a wonderful ball by Paul Collins, on for David Moore at left wing.
A plucky performance by the men in blue ’n’ black which unfortunately ended without reward.
Aquinas: David Montgomery, Marco Abbate, Enda Fitzpatrick, Daniel Winchester, Eoin Johnston, Chris Wilson, David Moore, John Erskine, Conor Hughes, Ryan McKernan, Conor O’Donnell, Paul Collins. MOTM: Eoin Johnston.