Last-gasp goal secures league and cup double for Villa Seconds


Rosario YC II 0

Abbey Villa II 1

Martin Strain reports from Seaview

AN 89th-minute winner saw Abbey Villa’s second team clinch the Walter Moore Cup and cap off a memorable season for the Millisle club at Seaview last Thursday night.

Villa’s seconds have had a wonderful campaign. Under the continued stewardship of Nikki Caskey, Barrie Colville, Andy Pitman and Tim Browne, they virtually ran away with promotion from Division 3B, finishing a remarkable 21 points clear of Derriaghy in third.

Remaining unbeaten in the league throughout the year, the team is a great balance of youthful enthusiasm and energy, along with a fair share of quality and experience.

Having said that, Thursday’s opponents Rosario are an equally strong outfit and finished a very reputable fourth position behind the three big-hitters of Immaculata, East Belfast and Crumlin Star, in what was a particularly strong Division 3A.

Villa reached the final by beating Ford, Islandmagee, St. Matthews and Willowbank, and did so by remaining loyal to the group of players who play regularly for the club’s second XI. Also worthy of note is that the vast majority of Nikki’s playing squad have progressed through Villa’s vibrant and productive youth set-up.

Rosario started the game on the front foot, almost carving out an opening in their very first attack, but Villa defended the resulting corner well. In the very next phase, the irrepressible Matthew Burke was then put through on goal but the Rosario centre halves quickly closed him down and the attack fizzled out.

Louis Gault Reid showed his quality when he pushed a lovely through ball to Carson Mann on Villa’s right wing, but Mann just couldn’t get a good contact on his effort which came to nothing.

As the first half continued the game fell into a bit of a pattern, Rosario looking very comfortable in possession, but mostly in safe areas well in front of the well marshalled Villa defence.

On 20 minutes, Matthew Burke was again in the thick of the action as he tried his luck with a shot, but it was comfortably dealt with by the Rosario ’keeper, who was without doubt the busier of the two custodians. Rosario had what was probably their best chance of the whole game from a set piece, but by strength of numbers it was eventually cleared.

As the game progressed it was clear that there was very little to choose between the teams, but Villa always looked the more dangerous. Ross Murray was brought into action following a scramble from a Rosario corner.

For what was probably the third or fourth time of the half, a great ball from a deep central defensive area caught the Rosario defence very square. Carson Mann picked up a super ball from Matty Edwards, but his shot was well saved.

Then just as the half was coming to a close, Edwards showed evidence of just how good a defender he is. From a low cross into the front post from the right wing, he was the sharpest to react, throwing himself headlong to push what was a very dangerous cross away to safety. From the resulting corner he again put his  body on the line to deny the Belfast team with a goalbound effort.

Unfortunately, the second half didn’t live up to the entertainment value of the first half, with the game seeming to get very untidy for long periods. Rosario had one good shot at the Villa goal, but ’keeper Ross Murray was happy to let it drift over. Carson Mann continued to pose a threat for Villa but he was ultimately frustrated when both a near-post header and a great shot on goal came to nothing.

Just as the game appeared to be drifting to a no score draw and into extra time with only a minute or two of ordinary time left on the clock, Mark Gilliland grabbed Villa’s winner.

After the referee let play continue following an apparent foul, Gilliland stayed alive to the loose ball and kept his head to finish coolly past the Rosario ’keeper before he could even move. The strike was met with jubilant celebrations from the many Villa supporters who had travelled up to Seaview, with both the game and an unprecedented season of success brought to a close shortly afterwards.

Abbey Villa II: Ross Murray, Curtis Shannon, Matthew Edwards, Matty Dempster, Casey Courtney, Louis Gault Reid (C), Carson Mann, James Boyd, Matthew Burke, Mark Gilliland, Kyle Irwin. Substitutes: James Edwards, Daniel McFarland, Simon Morgan.


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