Irvinestown Wanderers 2

Lisbellaw United 1

Lisbellaw manager Kyle McCleery admits his side’s place in Division One is under threat after a 2-1 defeat to Irvinestown Wanderers. Goals from Eoin McManus and Stephen Sheridan earned Wanderers the points, with a late goal from Kelvin McElroy not enough to salvage anything for Lisbellaw.

The defeat leaves them just two points off the foot of the table having played four games more than some of their rivals.

“We are in the thick of a relegation fight and the league table does not look pretty,” admitted McCleery.

“The defeat leaves us in a really precarious position. We could really have done with one point or even three but I was disappointed with how we played in the first half. Our passing was poor and our distribution was poor although in the second half we rolled the sleeves up and we looked a different team.

“The other teams around us have three or four games in hand so it is a wee bit out of our control in that respect. We can only look after ourselves and concentrate fully on each game. It is going to be a tough second part of the season, but we have been so, so close and if we can turn the corner ever so slightly hopefully we get a good run of results and push on up the table,”

McCleery also felt his team were on the wrong end of some disputed refereeing calls, with the decision to award Wanderers a penalty for an off the ball shirt pull during a corner having a huge impact on the outcome of the match. “Both sets of players were looking at each other, and we hadn’t a clue why it was given,” he said. “It was ridiculous. You never see penalties awarded for that. If they all took that stance there would be ten penalties in every game.”

Wanderers manager Ryan Beacom admitted that there was little to choose between the sides. “It was a game of two halves,” he said.

“We had the wind in the first half and went in two up but I felt we could have been a lot further ahead. We got some good fortune with the penalty and I’m still not sure what it was given for, but we missed some good chances. In the second half our backs were against the wall and we defended for 45 minutes, but I don’t think they created as much in the second half as we did in the first half. I can understand how Lisbellaw would think they should have got something out of the game but the boys dug deep, especially in the second half when we couldn’t get out of our half with the wind.”

The win took Irvinestown to fifth in the table, and Beacom has been delighted with how his team have improved after a slow start.

“There are a lot of positives coming into the New Year,” he said.

“We have pulled away and it has left us a wee bit of breathing space but we can’t rest on our laurels or think that we are safe yet.”

Irvinestown were playing with the assistance of a strong wind in the first half, and they made the most of it, penning Lisbellaw into their own half. Chances came and went for Wanderers with Caolan Ward, Gary Maguire and Stephen Sheridan all coming close. Lisbellaw’s first clear sight of goal came from a Jordan Cadden chance, but he headed wide when well placed. Paul McGrath had a couple of shots blocked, but Lisbellaw’s forays into the Wanderers half were rare as the home team dominated.

The controversial penalty incident came midway through the half, Eoin McManus stepping up to dispatch the ball into the bottom corner.

They moved further ahead before half time, when a wind affected goal kick from Sam McDonald was controlled by Caolan Ward, and his pass released Stephen Sheridan who drilled the ball into the corner of the net.

It was Lisbellaw’s turn to play with the wind in the second half, and they started to create more chances as they looked for a way back into the game.

Paul McGrath had a header cleared off the line with Lisbellaw claiming the defender had used his hand to stop the ball crossing the goal line, but the referee waved away their appeals.

With 15 minutes remaining Kelvin McElroy pulled one back after the keeper had failed to hold on to McGrath’s shot.

Their hopes of a comeback were dented minutes later however when Sam Lindsay received a second yellow card and Wanderers were able to hold on for victory.