NIFL Championship

H&W Welders 5-4 Newington

Comebacks, hat-tricks, and dugout spats were all on display in Saturday afternoon’s nine-goal thriller between H&W Welders and Newington, in the east of the city. 

The Danny Blanchflower stadium played host to one of the games of the season, which saw Newington surrender a three-goal lead, in a first half which at times seemed like a training session for the visitors. 

However, a hat-trick from Matthew Ferguson along with efforts from Owens and McClay was enough to seal all three points for the Welders in a dramatic comeback; bringing an end to Ton’s six-game unbeaten run and leaving their survival in the NIFL Championship, hanging in the balance. 

The visitors started the match on the front foot, with the likes of Warwick, Downey and Stuart combining well to create a number of chances in the opening 10 minutes for the Ton. 


It wasn’t long before it became evident to those in attendance which of the two sides was still fighting for their lives in a relegation battle, as Newington were first to every ball, while Welders struggled to match the intensity set by the North Belfast side in the early stages. 

Shortly after a few squandered opportunities by Paul Hamilton’s men, the Ton had their breakthrough, with Patrick Downey getting the final touch. 

However, while Patrick Downey’s name is the one on the scoresheet, much of the praise must be heaped in the direction of the exquisite touch and vision of Darren Stuart. A long ball, high into the East Belfast sky was brought beautifully down by the number 9, who had the composure and calmness to look up and square the ball to the onrushing Downey, who calmly slotted the ball home to give the visitors the lead. 

Provider turned goalscorer just a matter of minutes later, as it was Stuart’s turn to get his name on the scoresheet. 

A poorly cleared corner by Welders was sent back where it came from by the head of Ton defender Eamonn Hughes, arriving at the feet of the ever-grateful Stuart, who found himself in acres of space inside the opposition box. The striker delivered a composed finish into the side of the net, giving Lanouette no chance, and his side a healthy lead. 

Ten minutes later and Stuart once again could not believe his luck as the striker was gifted yards of space inside the Welders penalty area for the umpteenth time in the first half. 

A mirror image of his first saw Stuart once again control the ball beautifully inside the opposition box, with no pressure from the Welders’ defence. T

he striker, and Newington, seemed in ruthless form, as the Ton man made no mistake firing the ball past Lanouette, in front of the travelling Newington supporters.

Despite the two sides’ respective starts to the match, combined with the now constant demands from the Newington bench for the away side to keep focused, shortly before half-time Welders managed to pull one back. A goal that, despite being still so early in the match, seemed for all the world to be nothing more than a consolation, given the gulf in application by the two sides up until that point. 

A driving run through the heart of the midfield from Oisin Barr, leaving Donnelly and Gowdy in his wake, afforded the midfielder the time and space to pick his head up and play a perfectly-weighted through ball to Ferguson, who was already on the move. Ferguson took the ball beautifully into his stride with his first touch before poking it past the stranded Nathan Kerr with his second, who had found himself in goalkeeping limbo on the edge of his box. 

A momentary lapse of concentration from the Ton, and the Blanchflower faithful, perhaps for the first time in the afternoon, had a glimmer of hope. 

With the half-time whistle merely seconds away, and just when it seemed as though Ferguson’s goal was to be nothing but a minor blemish on an otherwise perfect afternoon for Newington, up rose Kyle Owen to get on the end of a Welder’s corner and head it down into the ground, before bouncing into the Newington net. A disastrous few minutes for the Ton, and momentum now lay firmly in the hands of the home side for the upcoming second half. 


As the second half began, it wasn’t long before Welders were capitalising on the momentum they had miraculously wrestled back off Newington in the final few minutes of the first 45. 

Some lovely football and passing down the left-hand side from the home side served as a reminder to Paul Hamilton’s side that their opponents had finally woken up. This passing move was not to be without an end product, as a lovely ball over the top for Ferguson was cut back to the edge of the box for half-time substitute James McClay, who was making a late run into the box. 

The midfielder didn’t have a Ton player within 10 feet of him, allowing him to take his time before beautifully caressing the ball into the top left-hand corner. The comeback was now complete. 

Newington, who 20 minutes ago were coasting to three points as they fight for survival, were now level, and with the home side now in the ascendency, Ton soon found themselves behind. 

That man Ferguson again; replicating his opposite number’s first-half achievement, and grabbing a brace of his own. A ball over the top of the now discombobulated Newington defence arrived at the feet of Ferguson at the near post who managed to squeeze it past Kerr for his second of the afternoon. 

Two goals either side of the half had turned the impassioned screams from the Ton dugout into silent disbelief. Shock brandished across the faces of the entire bench, and players.  

Just as Newington, who were by now recovering from the shell shock of the quickfire Welders revival, were beginning to find some composure and rhythm again, they were hit with yet another blow. 

A defence-splitting pass into the path of Ferguson forced goalkeeper Kerr to come rushing off his line and make a brave save. The ricochet however, bounced back in the direction of the fortunate striker, who had the simple task of nodding it into an empty net to turn a three-goal deficit into a new healthy lead, completing his hat-trick in the process.

Fans in attendance were given a glimmer of hope, or despair depending on their allegiance, of a second comeback of the afternoon as Slane pulled one back for the Ton with 10 minutes still left to play. 

The substitute found himself one on one with Welders’ defender Kyle Flynn, who allowed the winger to cut inside on his preferred left foot. The Ton forward curled a beautiful strike into the bottom left-hand corner, giving goalkeeper Lanouette zero chance, whilst giving his side just a glimmer of hope of rescuing a point late on. 

Anxiety continued to grow around The Danny Blanchflower stadium in the wake of the Newington fourth, and there was still enough time for a few gilt-edged chances for the visitors to grab an equaliser. A blocked shot from Hughes on the edge of the box, a mishit effort by Stuart yards out and a squandered opportunity from McNicholl into an empty net all in the dying minutes served as a cruel reminder to the Ton players and staff that today was simply not their day.  

Welders managed to hold on for all three points, which meant defeat for Newington for the first time since February; a defeat no doubt compounded by the nature in which it was delivered. 

H&W WELDERS: M Lanouette, K Flynn, C Byers (J Frazer), K Owens, J Grattan (J McClay), C Harris, M Ferguson (M Ayari), M McLellan (N Patterson), L Toman (J Kee), R Wilson, O Barr.

Goals: Ferguson 43’ 55’ 73’, Kyle 45’, McClay 48’.

NEWINGTON: N Kerr, F Brennan, K Bradley (P Slane), R Gowdy, G Warwick (C Burns), D Stuart (T McNicholl), P Downey (N Beta), E Hughes, J Reilly, J Diver, P Donnelly (M Morgan).

Goals: Downey 11’, Stuart 20’ 31’, Slane 81’.