Premier Division: Nortel netted three crucial points with 3-1 victory away to Islandmagee at the weekend.
It was also the first time Nortel had conceded less than two goals against Premier Division opposition, since beating Killyleagh YC 4-1 at the Factory Grounds, way back in October – and they did it without a recognised goalkeeper, with second-team midfielder Stephen Murray donning the gloves in the absence of injured duo Kris Malone and Neil Edgar.
Nortel’s plans had to be re-jigged when defender Robert Lowry pulled up in the warm-up. Darren Anderson was elevated to the starting eleven, while the versatile Andrew Simpson dropped in to the back four.
Yet it didn’t unduly unruffle Nortel as they set the early standard with Ethan Boylan bringing out the best in keeper David Harrison. They broke the ice on 20 minutes when recent recruit Darren Docherty made it four goals in four matches, heading in a Davy Freyne corner despite the best efforts of keeper Harrison to claw the ball away.
Nortel consolidated that lead when Jordan Clarke scrambled in a second.
Islandmagee set things up nicely for the second half with Arthur making no mistake from the spot after Karl Murray was alleged to have impeded a player inside the box.
The Wilbourners could have gone off at the break on an even keel, but for the save of the match from Murray, finger-tipping an Andy Waide blockbuster over the bar.
Nortel again looked the livelier on the restart with Boylan foiled by Harrison once more.
The Newtownabbey side, however, regained their two-goal advantage when Simpson met a Jordan Clarke free-kick on the half-volley.
There might have been still time, though, for the Islanders to salvage something but for an excellent point-blank save by Murray.
On Saturday, it’s back to the Factory Grounds for the visit of the side just above Nortel in the table, ninth-placed Ardglass.
Nortel: Murray - Lowry, Docherty, Simpson, Freyne – Caughey, Lorrimer, D Anderson – J Clarke, T Clarke (Fenner), Boylan. Sub (unused) Bloomfield.