INTERMEDIATE CUP: Larne boss McAlinden bemoans penalty award in defeat to Ards

Chris Rodgers scored Larne's only goal in the 2-1 defeat to Ards. INLT 11-903-CON  Photo: Andy Scullion
Chris Rodgers scored Larne's only goal in the 2-1 defeat to Ards. INLT 11-903-CON Photo: Andy Scullion

Larne’s Intermediate Cup run ended on Saturday when they went down 2-1 against Ards.

The visitors had led through Chris Rodgers, but two Stephen O’Neill goals in seven minutes - the first a controversial penalty - sealed their fate.

The first half was a forgettable affair with both sides looking lacklustre. Ben Browne and Carl McCombe went close for Ards while John Donnelly curled a shot wide and Ciaran Murray tested Liam McAuley with a low drive.

Larne also had a strong penalty claim turned down when Colin Nixon was bundled over.

After the break the Invermen looked the more lively and again Murray went close, drilling a low shot the wrong side of the post.

With 50 minutes gone Murray chased down a through ball only to be taken out by McAuley who was fortunate to escape with just a yellow.

Five minutes later Larne took the lead. A Murray corner found Rodgers at the back post and he powered home a header.

John Donnelly then had a great chance to double Larne’s lead but his shot was straight at the keeper.

Larne were well on top at this stage but the game turned on a decision on 62 minutes. The ball was played in from the left, James McCabe and Craig McMillen challenged for the ball and went down. It looked odds-on to be a Larne free-kick but the referee pointed to the spot.

O’Neill took the penalty and despite Billy Brennan’s best efforts the ball found the net. The winner came seven minutes later. A McCombe free-kick from the right was driven towards the near post for O’Neill to divert it past Brennan.

As the seconds ticked away, Murray’s cross found Nixon five yards out but he couldn’t produce the power or direction on the header to beat the keeper.

Ards: McAuley, McCullough, Gage, Convery, Lambe, Arthurs, Dorrian, McMillan, O’Neill, McCombe, Browne. Subs: E. McAllister, Hall, D. McAllister, Upritchard, Buckley.

Larne: Brennan, Bradley, McGonnell, Rodgers, Nixon, McMullan, Donnelly (Maguire 72), McIlveen, Murray, Keke, McCabe (Robinson 66), Subs not used: McGrandles, Irvine, Stitt.

Referee: S. Taylor (Belfast).

Larne boss, Davy McAlinden gave the Times his reaction to the defeat.

“That’s the second week in a row we have been on the end of decisions which we are really unhappy with. We started the second half well and were in control of the game and got our goal then we get the penalty decision and the second was disappointing.

“We had ample chances to get the equaliser but it didn’t happen. In the first half it was like a boxing match; neither side wanted to make a mistake but I was very pleased with the performance and I thought we were the better side. We can take a lot of positives from the game, even though I didn’t think we got the rub of the green.

“We now have nine big cup finals to look forward to and really focus on. The league has always been our priority and we will have Saturday and Tuesday games coming up which we don’t mind as at this stage of the season.”