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Vital Win in Derby Relegation Fight

posted 29 Jul 2011, 03:41 by Sarsfields PRO   [ updated 29 Jul 2011, 04:17 ]
Sarsfields 3-12 Clan na Gael 3-11

Having been out through injury Brian Lavery and Ciaran Kerr returned to the side and work commitments meant Paul Magee was unable to start.

The wet evening after a long dry spell meant conditions were greasy, though the flags indicated there was no breeze.

The early indications were that the Clans were up for this match and they hit the first point from a free, the initial effort having come off the post. Sarsfields came back with a good attack and had a handy chance of a point, but took the option of an extra pass in search of a goal chance that was easily blocked down. Going for the point might have been the best option and this notion was confirmed when the Clans quickly cleared and countered with a goal, putting the ball across the goal mouth for the handiest palm in. Sarsfields replied with three points in three minutes all from Richie Stevenson. The first two scores were from frees from what only can be described as poor Clans discipline and the third point came from play after a poor pass out of defence from Clans. Thomas McAlinden levelled matters on ten minutes and really the Highmoss scores were coming from winning the midfield battle. Clans hit back with a second goal when initially it looked like the home defence had it covered. It was at this stage Sarsfields showed great character and while doubt might have been creeping in amongst the support, it certainly wasn’t apparent on the field. The next fifteen minutes saw Sarsfields dominate. The defence after a shaky start, frustrated every Clans attack, the midfield had the lions share of possession and the forward line took advantage. During this time the Highmoss hit 2-03 without reply to lead by six points. The first goal was a handy palm in from Neil McCann after Thomas McAlinden had set up the chance with a driving run holding off several tackles in the process. Paul McGaughey added a great point, he may have had the opportunity to pass inside to Neill McCann for a goal chance but the well taken point was most likely the correct choice. During this time the visitors made some very bad misses from handy free chances and Brian Lavery denied them a point with a catch above the bar. With great midfield work Sarsfields kept the pressure on and this led to a penalty after Eamon McGeown was brought down in the square. With his back to goal trying to get possession, it certainly was a poor defensive error from the visitors. For the second match in a row Richie Stevenson converted the penalty and put the Highmoss in the driving seat. Thomas McAlinden added a point off his right boot after a lovely midfield knock down from Brian Lavery and he then supplied Neil McCann with a good ball and he tapped over for the point. Since their eleventh minute goal the Clans had just managed two points from frees and nothing from play. The first free seemed very dubious with the Highmoss keeper harshly adjudged to have over carried. However as the half ended Sarsfields could have pushed further ahead but were let down by poor passing giving possession away. Luckily for Sarsfields the Clans were unable to capitalise on these errors.

Whilst Sarsfields were the better team, it was felt if Clans got a few early scores the match would be very much in the melting pot. Clans hit the first two points in the second half reducing the deficit to four points, not what you would consider a great lead in a local derby and relegation battle. The visitors could have been closer, after going for goal from a quick free and blasting wide of an unguarded net. The Highmoss reply was swift and decisive with regard to the match result. Mark Reynolds hit a point after a perfect ball out of defence found him in acres of space and he ran in unchallenged for the point. Almost immediately in a superb move Thomas McAlinden found Paul McGaughey and he set up Michael Stevenson for a super left footed strike. With an eight point lead and twenty minutes remaining you could have been forgiven for thinking it was game over. It was at this stage that Sarsfields seemed to press the self destruct button. Chances that should have been scored were sent wide, the midfield wasn’t winning as much possession and passes were going astray. The visitors hit three on the trot to close the gap to five, though Michael Stevenson eased the pressure with a point after the Highmoss hadn’t scored for almost fifteen minutes. Clans again reduced the deficit to four points and with five minutes remaining it looked like only a goal would save them. Michael Stevenson added a point from a free and you might have said ‘that was that’ but the visitors showed great determination and got that unlikely goal two minutes from time. The Highmoss defence had allowed the Clans player through, when many savvy defenders would have thought that conceding the free and a point was the sensible option. There was a hint of charging or over carrying but the goal stood to set up a tense ending for the fans and provide superb value for money for the neutrals. The visitors added a point to make it a one point game. Sarsfields rallied and had the most of the injury time possession, with one chance going wide. However it was relief to hear the final whistle. It should have been easier, but in this type of match it is the result that is all important, the Clans could take little comfort from their fight back.

Sarsfields now have a five point advantage over the Clans, but should they lose on Sunday, Clans might well beat bottom team Carrickcruppen to leave little between the sides. The flip side is that a Highmoss win in Culloville would see them move above the border side.