Enniskillen Town United will spend Christmas on top of the tree following a soporific score draw with old foes Lisbellaw United on the 3G Pitch at The Complex on Saturday last. Let us hope that they prove to be stars and not fairies.
On a wet, windy and bitterly cold afternoon, both teams entered the contest surprisingly understrength. Town’s Malcolm Crawford and Conor Tummon remain injured while Lisbellaw’s Seamus Quigley was reported to have got stuck up the chimney. Experienced goalkeeper William McFrederick was also absent for the visitor’s. A rumour has done the rounds recently that McFrederick may make a surprise January switch to Town. This was dispelled in a quick post match exchange with Emmet Carty. Director of Football, Carty, confirming that “Santa Claus is not coming to Town!”
Matthew McAuley’s second minute opener was to give little indication of the snoozefest that was to ensue. Stephen Clarke was fouled following some good movement from full back Conor Watson on the right flank. Ryan Hanna’s free kick was allowed to bounce on the edge of the six yard box before McAuley’s deft flick deceived James McGrath and spun into the top corner of his goal.
Further chances were to be few and far between on a day when both sets of players struggled to adapt to the conditions and, the sleek, swanky surface. Indeed, it was half chances, if anything, that were mustered up. Pat Cadden dealt comfortably with a Niall Cassidy free while McGrath was sharp off his line to deny Frank Wallace after a decent ball from Watson.
McAuley just failed to connect with a floated delivery on thirty-seven minutes, Wallace and Clarke both having sniffs before the danger was cleared. A sublime through ball from the majestic Nicholas Dunbar was too quick for the run of Wallace, McAuley turned and fired wide from distance, while McGrath also dealt with a long range Clarke effort.
The “festive” fare did improve, somewhat marginally, after the break. McAuley very nearly made it a quick fire double, firing narrowly wide from Hanna’s delivery on forty-six. Clarke and Hanna were again involved before McGrath denied Wallace, while Cadden was called into action to deny Ryan O’Keefe.
An hour on the clock now. Conor Watson’s delivery was inch perfect for Stephen Clarke. However, the unfortunate Clarke did his best impression of both “Holly” and “Ivy” as he fluffed his lines, unmarked, from six yards. As Christmas presents go, they don’t get much better. And, as is so often the case, profligacy was to be punished. The impressive O’Keefe with a darting run and cross. Raymond Carroll had the simplest of tasks tapping into an empty net.
O’Keefe should have done better when blasting over on seventy minutes. Paul McGrath was then adjudged offside as he broke clear off the Town rear guard. In fairness to the superbly named McGrath, he was at least a yard onside if not more. Paul Crane flashed a header wide from returning substitute Matthew Keenan’s corner. Andy Thompson replied with an effort for the visitors.
Another Keenan delivery saw Watson crash his header off the bar. McGrath saved superbly from the Gary Lynch rebound. The resultant corner was played short to Wallace. His shot crashed into the side netting.
With both sides bereft of any tactical game plan, innovation or individual brilliance the game petered out to its inevitable conclusion. Until one final chance for redemption. With nearly three minutes injury time on the watch, some indiscipline in the Lisbellaw defence lead to a favourably placed free on the edge of the area. Ideal for a “left peg”, the scene was set for prodigal son Keenan to wave his wand and earn the most dramatic of victories against his former employers. The headline writers were sharpening their pencils (or more than likely playing with their Iphones, as is the case nowadays). Either way it didn’t matter. The script had been written.
Or so we thought. Up stepped Darren McQuade whose effort cannoned off the Lisbellaw wall before drifting harmlessly wide and bringing the dampest of damp squibs to a welcome end.
It was a turkey.
The Town: P Cadden, C Beacom, D McQuade, N Dunbar, C Watson, P Crane, R Hanna, M McAuley, S Clarke, S Chambers, F Wallace.
Subs – M Keenan for S Chambers (50), M Chambers for N Dunbar (59), G Lynch for S Clarke (69).
On a side note, the Lisbellaw team sheet included both Paul McGrath and Craig Johnston!
Attendance: 119 hardy souls preferred Fermanagh&Western football to Christmas shopping. For any of you that are still looking to do some last minute purchasing, why not try the new Manchester United lamp. It really suits the middle of the table.
Top Townie: Conor “Inky” Watson – elementary.
Comedy Moment: In a first half exchange of pique with a small section of Town supporters, Lisbellaw’s Niall Cassidy naughtily referred to them as “wan*ers.” He was promptly informed, “It’s a pity your father wasn’t one!”
Referee: Jerome McElroy – A real pity that his father wasn’t a ……
“So You Did Son Moment”: Matthew Keenan’s unerring eighty-second minute cross for Watson was a rare glimpse of brilliance on a day for the sloggers.
Words from a Song: After last years appeals for a Dukla Prague away kit fell on deaf ears, I’ve decided to plump for another Festive Footie Favourite – All Together Now.
And not forgetting this timeless classic
Manager Watch: Apparently all the lads down at his local gym have recently nicknamed him “Gerry Adams.” They know he’s been a member for years. They just can’t prove it!
…And Finally: A little cracker from Christmas past. Merry Christmas Brian!