We suffered a disappointing 2-1 defeat away to Irvinestown Wanderers at the Bawnacre on Saturday. In awful conditions, Irvinestown played with the wind on their backs in the first half and put us under pressure throughout. We were slow to get going, with our passing, first touch and work rate leaving a lot to be desired. In saying that, we carved a few openings, William Armstrong doing well down the right wing on occasions, crossing for Paul McGrath who seen his shot blocked and from Sam Lindsays cross back in to the box Jordan Cadden headed wide when well placed. McGrath had another half chance when Sean Keenan floated a free kick in to his path, but again his shot was blocked. We had a claim for a penalty when the Irvinestown keeper misjudged the flight of a corner and clattered in to Gareth Carrothers, but the referee waved play on. Moments later, we were defending a corner and when the ball was cleared the referee blew his whistle and pointed to the spot, much to the bewilderment of both teams. A very soft penalty to say the least, which Eoin McManus blasted low in to the bottom corner past Sam McDonald.
After this, Irvinestown enjoyed most of the possession and we struggled to find a way out of our own half in gale force winds. We then found ourselves two down after about half an hour when Stephen Sheridan doubled the home sides advantage. Having won back possession, the ball was played back to Sam McDonald but his clearance was picked up by Caolan Ward in midfield and he played in Sheridan who made no mistake and slotted past McDonald. In truth, we weren’t at the races up to that point and in a way were lucky to be only 2-0 down at the break.
The second half was a different story as this time we had the wind advantage and we pegged Irvinestown back from the word go. Paul McGrath looked to have got us back in to the game as his glancing header had the keeper beaten, but an Irvinestown defender on the back post seemed to scoop the ball out with his hand, which unfortunately the referee missed. Not only that, but the ball seemed to have already crossed the line. It turned out to be a pivotal point in the game, as if the referee had seen the handball it surely would have led to a penalty and a red card for the Irvinestown defender. Nevertheless we kept pushing, desperately trying to get back in to the game. The introduction of Richard Woods, Ryan Lindsay and Kelvin McElroy gave us extra energy going forward and we eventually pulled a goal back when a McGrath shot was only parried and McElroy was on hand to slot home.
At the other end, a superb recovery challenge from Aaron Lindsay denied Sheridan a chance to grab his second of the game and kept our hopes of an equaliser very much alive. However, to add to our misery we had Sam Lindsay sent off when the referee awarded Irvinestown a free kick when their player tripped over the ball, and when Lindsay reacted angrily the referee showed no hesitation in brandishing a second yellow card. Unfortunately, we were unable to find an equaliser and Irvinestown held on. Again, big decisions went against us at crucial times and we were left to rue a poor first half performance as ultimately we had given ourselves too much to do in the second half.