SML round-up: Saints win first trophy of season

All Saints Old Boys celebrate after their victory over Harryville Homers in the Top 4 Final at a foggy Showgrounds. INBT 49-933H
All Saints Old Boys celebrate after their victory over Harryville Homers in the Top 4 Final at a foggy Showgrounds. INBT 49-933H

A GOAL in each half for Champions All Saints Old Boys saw them win the Ballymena Mortgages Top Four Cup for the third time on Friday night and in doing so smashed Harryville Homers’ 100% start to the campaign.

This eagerly awaited Final was ruined for the large crowd who showed up because of the dense fog which eventually lifted in the second half.

This game was played in really foggy conditions which made it difficult early on for both sides to get any fluency in their play and for the large crowd to watch, Saints started sharper and almost took the lead when Alan Telford slipped in Aaron Wilkinson but Homers keeper Ryan Martin raced off his line to bravely save at the feet of the Saints striker.

At the other end Homers front pair of Gary Bonnes and Paul McNeill were looking lively but the closest they came to scoring was on 20 minutes when Gary Bonnes curled an effort just wide and then Ryan Stewart also curled an effort wide as Homers went in search of the opener.

Both sides then became adapted to the weather conditions and started to create clearer openings with Gavin Burnside having the best chance for Saints as he volleyed wide when well placed. Homers had the best chance to take the lead seven minutes before the break when a clearance from Saints ricocheted into the path of Paul McNeill but Saints defender Michael McCarry did well to get back in and prevent the striker from getting a clean shot at goal.

Just as the half looked to be finishing in stalemate Saints hit the opener. A free kick from just inside his own half from Chris Wilkinson was flicked on by Peter McReynolds to Aaron Wilkinson whose shot was blocked by Ryan Martin only to fall at the feet of Gavin Burnside who slipped the ball back to Liam Cassley to hammer home from close range and send his side in with a 1-0 lead at the break.

The second half saw Homers take the game to Saints from the very first whistle, but they found the Saints defence hard to breakdown with Colin Laffan and Michael Maybin marshalling their defence well and limiting Homers to long range efforts which rarely troubled Brian Martin in the Saints goal but he had to be on top of his game on 65 minutes when he saved and held a low drive from Paul McNeill.

With Homers throwing everything at Saints, they were always liable to get caught on the break and with 18 minutes to go Saints hit Homers with a sucker punch second goal on one of these breaks.

Saints cleared a corner to Gavin Burnside who held the ball up well before laying the ball back to Liam Cassley who played in Peter McReynolds down the right and his cross was knocked down by Homers keeper Ryan Martin to Aaron Wilkinson who stepped inside his marker and curled the ball into the top corner of the net from just inside the box to give his side a 2-0 lead.

After this Homers kept trying to get themselves back in the game but again found Saints in stubborn form with Stephen Tully in superb form as he snuffed out Homers most creative threat in Darren Campbell preventing Homers creating any clear cut chances as Saints saw the game out to win the Top Four and have their first clean sheet of the season.

After the final whistle Joe Burrell of Ballymena Mortgages presented the Top Four Cup to All Saints OB Captain Colin Laffan and the celebrations began.

All Saints OB: Brian Martin, Michael McCarry, Chris Wilkinson, Micheal Mabin, Colin Laffan,Peter McReynolds, Alan Telford, Stephen tully, Liam Cassley, Gavin Burnside and Aaron Wilkinson. Substitutes: Ryan Brady, Stephen Sexton and Philip Lynn.

Harryville Homers: Ryan Martin, Richard Forsythe, Ryan Stewart, Ian Russell, David Gibson, Alan Rainey, Darren Campbell, Gary Baird, Mark McKay, Gary Bonnes and Paul McNeill. Substitutes: Jason McKay, Russell Craig and Jason Magill.

Referee: Mr Robert Swann Assistant Referees: Mr Billy McMaster and Mr Finlay Sloan.

For full reports, results, fixtures and league tables, as well as picture coverage of the Top Four final, see this week’s Ballymena Times.