Ahoghill Thistle claimed back-to-back Ace Cup triumphs in the Ballymena Saturday Morning League by beating All Saints Old Boys 3-1 in Saturday’s final.
League runners-up Thistle started on the front foot and got their reward on three minutes.
Ryan Curry found the feet of Matt Boyd with a throw in deep inside the Saints half and he laid the ball off to Randal Reid 18 yards out and he smashed the ball into the corner of the net to give his side the perfect start.
Despite this early setback Saints almost got level immediately when Liam Cassley raced through but his shot was saved well by the feet of Stephen Watson. The game was wide open early on and Thistle hit Saints with a second goal with a fast breakaway.
Paul Aiken skipped past two challenges on the left and drove into the Saints half before slipping in Matt Boyd whose shot was only parried by Brian Martin and fell to Ryan Sands who made no mistake to make it 2-0.
Thistle thought they had made it 3-0 on 12 minutes when Ryan Sands looked to have scored again but the goal was ruled out for a handball.
Saints were given a way back into the game on 15 minutes when they were awarded a penalty kick after Liam Cassley had been pushed over just inside the box. Alan Telford stepped up and placed the ball beyond the reach of Stephen Watson.
This goal galvanised Saints and they came close to levelling when Ryan Gregg hit a deep cross to Ryan Wilkinson and he headed across goal for Liam Cassley who controlled but his shot was then brilliantly kept out by Stephen Watson.
After this chance Thistle almost immediately regained their two goal cushion when a free kick into the box from Gavin Kernohan beat everyone except Matt Boyd and he knocked the ball back across goal for Ryan Curry to bundle the ball home. Thistle dominated the half after this goal and could have added to their tally but for being wasteful in front of goal.
Saints came out in the second half with a point to prove and they took the game to Thistle straight away forcing a series of corners but the Thistle defence held strong.
Thistle almost extended their lead on two occasions just before the hour mark firstly through Paul Aiken who saw his effort cleared off the line by Barry Hamill and then Brian Martin did brilliantly to keep out a Randal Reid drive.
Substitute Stephen Sexton looked like he was going to bring his side back into the game with 25 minutes to go but his shot was blocked by a last ditch tackle from Gavin Gilmore as Saints shouted for a hand ball.
Saints’ cause was dealt a major blow with 12 minutes to go when they were reduced to 10 men when a player was dismissed for a second yellow card, but Saints kept pushing and almost got a goal back but were again denied when Stephen Watson saved another Liam Cassley shot.
Thistle almost put the icing on the cake late on but Randal Reid had a shot cleared off the line by Barry Hamill as Thistle run out the winners.
After the final whistle BSML Vice-Chairman John Stewart on behalf of sponsors Ace Fixings handed the Ace Cup over to the winning Ahoghill Thistle Captain Jason Stewart and the celebrations began.
All Saints OB – Brian Martin, Michael McCarry, Barry Hamill, Peter McReynolds, Noel Crossey, Chris Wilkinson, Ryan Wilkinson (sub Brian Paul Donnelly), Gordon Dillon, Liam Cassley, Alan Telford, Ryan Gregg (sub Stephen Sexton). Unused subs: Gavin Burnside, Philip Lynn and Joe Scullion.
Ahoghill Thistle: Stephen Watson, Ryan Curry, David Drummond, Gavin Gilmore, David Campbell, Ryan Stewart, Gavin Kernohan, Ryan Sands (sub George Courtney), Randal Reid, Matt Boyd, Paul Aiken (sub Alan Moore). Unused Substitutes: Mervyn Crawford, Henry Nutter and Rodney McKay.