Battling Woodview are still on course
WOODVIEW Celtic escaped with their unbeaten record at Glenmuir Park intact and retained hopes of completing a title hat-trick when drawing with fellow contenders Rock Celtic last Wednesday.
What could have been a title decider took place under a bizarre cloud of uncertainty over the state of play in the top flight as Rock prepared to lodge a protest over their conquerors of the previous week, Duleek, allegedly playing a suspended player against them.
That protest was due to be heard by the MDL Committee this Tuesday night, but the possibility remains of either club appealing whatever decision is made to the Leinster FA which would delay the conclusion of the season.
These arch rivals played like there was a title to play for on the day, with Woodview having clearly the better of the first half, while in a complete reversal of the play Rock took command in the second period.
The men from Sandy Lane overturned a 1-0 deficit and were within three minutes of victory that depending on the outcome of what happens in the league boardroom could have landed them the title.
However, once more the defending champions pulled the fat out of the fire with the mighty influence of Mickey O'Kane playing a key role when moved forward from centre-half for the closing minutes. He broke a high ball down to provide space for striker Paudie Hearty, who had a fine game, to shoot from inside the penalty box into the corner of the Rock net.
This defiant never-beaten attitude has been the hallmark of the champions who have performed a number of late escape acts like this during the season.
Billy Smith fired them ahead in the opening 10 minutes following good work by Ray McCann. The striker should have increased his side's lead as they dominated the opening half, failing to convert a couple of close-in opportunities and shot across the face of the Rock goal following a lightning counter attack.
Ray McCann also made John Rogers go full-length to turn his curling free from 25 yards round his near post, while Rock were very muted in attack, creating few openings and posing little scoring threat , with Woodview goalkeeper Padraig Gorham just having a couple of straightforward shots to save.
The nearest to a real opening fell to Paddy Quinn who got in behind the Woodview defence but was pushed to the left of goal and was forced to shoot from a difficult angle.
It was a different Rock in the second half, with the introduction of Cormac McArdle playing a big part in them taking a stranglehold on the play, with Paul Gore a powerhouse in midfield, Paddy Quinn more influential and, significantly, David Ward pulling and dragging the Woodview defence apart and able to get in behind them with his speed, aided by the clever support of his partner Derek Delany.
Ward wasted a glorious chance to equalise when slick interplay between Quinn and Delany put him clear in the box but blasted his shot over the bar with the goalkeeper drawn off his line.
However he quickly made amends just short of the hour when he made another strong run to the edge of the Woodview box, and spun and shot low into the bottom near corner of the net.
McArdle put the Seasiders ahead 18 minutes from the end. The visitors were awarded a corner kick in error from which Nathan Murphy was badly off target with a shot from the edge of the box, but the ball fell to McArdle to the right of goal and he turned and with pinpoint accuracy shot inside the post.
Woodview were in a state of disarray with Chris Caulfield earlier clearing off his line, and twice in quick succession Rock hit the woodwork. McArdle headed a Quinn cross against the bar and the ball struck the post before being cleared.
Ward also later hit the top of bar from another Quinn cross, but having weathered the storm Woodview regained their composure and launched O'Kane in attack, and he enabledPaudie Hearty score what could be the goal that clinches the title for the champions again.
Woodview Cel: Padraig Gorham, Alan McCartney, Chris Caulfield, Mickey O'Kane, Andrew Duffy (Keith Finnegan), Ray McCann, Stephen Grimes, Paul McArdle, Owen Armstrong (John Smith 70), Paudie Hearty, Billy Smith (Anto Reilly 75).
Rock Cel: John Rogers, Conor McDonnell, Paddy Reilly, Ross Quigley, Nathan Murphy, Paddy Quinn, David McGeough (Cormac McArdle 45), Paul Gore, Ger McSorley, David Ward, Derek Delany.