Moyola Park 2-1 Newington
Saturday’s game at Mill Meadow pitted the division’s highest scorers and tightest defence in opposition with each other but it was Moyola Park who came out on top.
The visitors were the more aggressive of the two sides in the opening minutes and it was 13 minutes before Moyola Park had the first shot on goal when Steven McQuillan shot straight at the visiting keeper Dean Smyth.
Three minutes later somewhat against the run of play Moyola Park registered the first goal of the game. In a move involving Darren Walls and Eugene Gallagher it was Chris Dowie who got the final touch to beat Smyth at his left hand goalpost.
Conal Burns caused havoc in the home defence on 26 minutes when he created an opening for himself down the left wing to shoot from some 15 yards past Marty Farniok and into the far corner of the ‘keeper’s net.
Just beyond the half hour mark came what proved to be a pivotal moment in the game. Jason Paul advanced into the Newington penalty area and as Smyth came to gather the ball his outstretched leg came into contact with the Moyola Park striker’s neck.
After some delay, whilst Jason received treatment and whilst referee John Deighan consulted with assistant referee Gregory Hegarty, Smyth was shown a red card.
Chris Dowie stepped up to dispatch the ball past substitute keeper Kevin O’Neill from the penalty spot to score his twelfth goal of the season. Connor Barrow replaced the injured Jason Paul.
The visitors finished the first half on the front foot but the Moyola Park defence held firm.
Newington battled hard to get a second equalizer but despite having to face a strong sun for much of the second half Farniok managed to defend his goal.
On one occasion Craig McAllister came to the aid of his keeper clearing the ball off the line as a half clearance came back in towards the home goal.
As the half progressed Moyola Park became more dominant. On 55 minutes McQuillan and Diarmuid Larkin were involved in a build up which culminated in a Dowie shot being saved by O’Neill.
Newington substitutes Joe Finlay and Taylor Smith each had efforts on goal but failed to add to their side’s tally.
Some 10 minutes from the final whistle an unmarked Gallagher headed over the Newington crossbar when he got on the end of a an excellent cross from Walls.
Moyola Park defender Gareth Stewart received the first red card of his career as the game entered added time, having been shown a second yellow card.
Moyola Park: Marty Farniok, Craig McAllister, Gareth Stewart, Steven McQuillan (Conal Kilpatrick 94), Mark Waddell, Conor Deane (Michael Walsh 63), Jason Paul (Connor Barrow 38), Eugene Gallagher, Chris Dowie, Diarmuid Larkin, Darren Walls Unused subs: Maurice Curtis, David Paul.
Newington: Dean Smyth, Ronan Brannigan, Conor Glenholmes (Joe Finlay 77), Cathal O’Kane, Sean Adams, Des McClean, Kevin O’Neill, Peter Gilgunn, Gary Rafferty (Taylor Smith 77), Conal Burns, Cormac Brannigan. Unused subs: Dee McErlain, Matt Reid.
Referee- John Deighan; Assistants- Gregory Hegarty and John McNabb.