Point and Crues come through all Premiership ties, but misery continues for Gray and Mullen!!!
First Saturday in January means only one thing on the local soccer scene. Sunday league footballers getting to stick it to the big boys! And whilst the likes of Glenavon, Ballymena, Coleraine and Linfield tip-toed around any major giant-killings, there were plenty of fairy tale stories to share on fifth round day.
Let’s quickly look at the Danske Bank Premiership sides. The aforementioned quartet took care of Rosemount Rec, Dundela, Harland and Wolff and Ballyclare respectively. Warrenpoint are also through, having come home from the North-West with a 2-0 win over Institute. In the other two all top-flight clashes, there was no let up in the all-consuming Winter darkness for Barry Gray and new Glens boss Gary Smyth. Gray’s Cliftonville side fell to their fourth defeat in a row, going down to a Seanan Clucas goal at home to Dungannon. Across the city, Smyth took the reins at The Oval this week, after Ronnie McFall was relieved of his duties in light of the East Belfast side not registering a victory since late October. There wasn’t to be a quick turnaround in fortunes, however, as they were put to the sword by Crusaders. Paul Heatley grabbing a brace in a 4-1 victory for Stephen Baxter’s men.
Speaking of gloom, there’s plenty around at the Newry Showgrounds at the moment, too. Manager Darren Mullen described the New Year’s Day defeat to Institute as being his worst day at the helm of the border club. Going into today’s match against the Championship’s big timers Larne, was always going to prove a struggle, one might have thought. Sure enough, goals from David McDaid and David Scullion either side of half-time settled it in favour of Tiernan Lynch’s side, despite a late consolation from Stevie Teggart.
Rooted to the bottom of the Premiership, Ards were hoping for a bit of a Cup run to ignite their season. Unfortunately for the North Down side, welcoming Carrick Rangers from around the Lough, will be as much of a run their fans will get to enjoy this season. Caolan Loughran’s twentieth minute goal proved to be enough for Michael Hughes’ Championship high-flyers.
Ball-X was at The Dub as Premier Intermediate rivals, Queen’s University and Lisburn Distillery went head-to-head. And it wasn’t easy watching for anyone of a Distillery persuasion, that’s for sure.
When Ben Mulgrew tucked away the opener after impressive winger Matty Hughes’ effort came off the cross bar on twelve minutes, it could be argued that The Students were fortunate to be in front having had to withstand early pressure from their visitors. Ten minutes later – it was 4-0! Ryan McCready grabbing a seven minute hat-trick, thanks in large part to the Malone Road end crossbar, who finished with three assists on the day. Michael O’Hanlon’s red card for a scissor tackle right on half-time summed up the first forty-five for the four time winners of the competition. It wasn’t just as bad in the second period. Chris Middleton converted from the spot ten minutes after the restart, before Leon Bonnes added a sixth on the hour for the home side. One bright moment for the visitors was ‘keeper Jonah Nicholl brilliantly saving another penalty with twenty minutes left to keep the damage at six.
The other early encounter saw a shock, as Intermediate League outfit Strabane Athletic overcame Knockbreda of the Championship. Hero on the day for the North Westerners was Warner Mullen, who netted a late winner having given the minnows the lead from the spot before Darius Roohi’s equaliser.
Fellow Intermediate side Maiden City, weren’t just as fortunate – going down to Ivan Sproule’s Dergview United by the odd goal in five, in Castlederg.
Arguably, the two biggest shocks of the day involved wins for Northern Amateur League representatives.
Crumlin Star have been turning heads in the lower echelons this year, and they confirmed that a step up in class was far from beyond them as they easily dispatched Championship side Loughgall, with an eye-catching 4-1 away victory.
And not to be outdone by their free spending Inver Park neighbours, Larne Tech Old Boys will have the honour of being the lowest ranked side in the sixth round draw, after a rousing 2-0 win away to Limavady. Chris Keenan gave the visitors a first minute lead, with Paul Michael Maguire grabbing the second before half-time.
In today’s two remaining fixtures, there were 5-1 wins for both Ballinamallard and Portadown, who dampened any cup dreams that the footballers of the PSNI or Abbey Villa had.
The sixth round draw has taken place inside the last few minutes. And we are guaranteed a minnow in the last eight, as Larne Tech OB have drawn fellow giant slayers Strabane Athletic. Linfield take on Crues in what looks to be the tie of the round on paper, but Ball-X’s eye is caught by Crumlin Star drawing Larne. That could be very tasty.
Sixth Round Draw in full below: