Tramore 3; Johnville 2
Two teams badly in need of points for completely different reasons served up an exciting game in Graun Park on Sunday morning last. Tramore have been sitting at the top of the table since the outset of the season and they were keen to remain eight points clear of second-placed Carrick United, who have two games in hand.
Johnville on the other hand are fighting their annual battle against relegation, so perhaps it came as no surprise that an entertaining 90 minutes ensued. The impressive Seasiders led 3-1 at the interval and one would have thought that they would go on to record an easy victory, but Johnville to their eternal credit never stopped battling and they stretched the game in the second half and gave the home side some moments of trouble.
Tramore were the superior team but the chances that came their way in the second half were squandered and as a result they made life very difficult for themselves.
Johnville were awarded a free kick after three minutes which was taken by Gavin Phelan but his excellent delivery was missed by three in-coming forward players. One minute later at the other end Micheal Downey pulled the ball back from the right endline to Leigh Quilty but he stabbed his effort over the crossbar from a very good position.
Tramore did take the lead on 21 minutes courtesy of a mistake by the visiting goalkeeper Joe Gant. Quilty swung over a corner kick from the right, Grant punched it back to him and Quilty put it back into the six-yard box. This time Grant parried the ball into the path of Robbie Phelan and he had no difficulty whatsoever finding the roof of the net for his 7th goal of the league campaign.
Johnville’s trouble’s doubled 3 minutes later when Tramore scored once again. Micheal Downey ran to the right endline to meet a long ball from Stephen Grant. Downey pulled the ball back to Ian Stenson who picked out Leigh Quilty and he drilled home from 10 yards, his 5th goal of the season.
James Starmer threw Johnville a lifeline on the half hour mark by cracking the ball past the home goalkeeper John Falconer from 30 yards after the Tramore defence had failed to clear a left wing cross by Gary Kelly.
Nine minutes later however, Tramore regained their two-goal advantage. Martin Whelan went charging down the left flank before laying the ball off to Micheal Downey who in turn laid the ball into the path of Sean Browne and he found the left corner of the net with a low strike from 15 yards.
The Johnville manager Mark Brown made two changes at half-time. He took off James Starmer and Alan Ryan and brought on John Butler and striker Kristian Walsh. It was Tramore, however, who almost scored the 5th goal of the game when Francis Rockett let rip with a well-taken free kick from 25 yards but Joe Grant managed to get his body behind the ball and produce a fine save.
One of the Johnville half time substitutes, John Butler struck the Tramore crossbar with a curling effort on 70 minutes. The other interval substitute Kristian Walsh did score 4 minutes later. Paul Cleary played a long ball out of defence and when Gavin Phelan controlled Cleary’s long ball he crossed to Walsh who poked the ball to the roof of the net from close range.
Two minutes after that goal Robbie Phelan crashed the ball off the Johnville crossbar as the game became extremely stretched. Five minutes later, Phelan had another chance when he met a cross from the left from Quilty but he headed wide when really he should have scored.
Johnville threw the kitchen sink at Tramore in the dying minutes but they could not grab an equaliser, which perhaps would have been an injustice to the home side.
Tramore: John Falconer, Martin Whelan, Stephen O’Shea, Craig Maher, Ian Stenson, Stephen Grant, Francis Rockett, Sean Browne, Micheal Downey, Leigh Quilty, Robbie Phelan. Subs: Michael Kavanagh for Downey (43 mins), Pat McCarthy for O’Shea (59 mins), Gary Hunt for Browne (67 mins).
Johnville: Joe Grant, Alan Ryan, Gary Kelly, Paul Cleary, Dan Murphy, Declan Phelan, Gavin Phelan, Valdo Bulvas, John O’Leary, John Wall, James Starmer. Subs: Kristian Walsh and John Butler for Starmer and Ryan (H-T), Michael Walsh for O’Leary (61 mins).
Referee: Noel Purcell.