Woodview Celtic moved back to the summit of the Nivea For Men MDL Premier Division with a well earned victory over Bellurgan United at Tom Flynn Park on Sunday morning.
The peninsula side began the game sitting on top of the table but they were well beaten on the day by Raymond Trimble’s side who, after an indifferent start to the campaign, look to be firing on all cylinders again.
The MDL Premier Division champions of 2011 and 2012 possess so much firepower in their ranks that even the meanest of defences would find hard to suppress.
Billy Smith, who occupies a position on the left flank, helped himself to a double but will feel he should have had a hat-trick while there were also goals for Padraig Hearty and Ray McCann. When you consider who didn’t score, threats such as Stephen Fisher, Owen Armstrong and probably the deadliest of them all, Mickey O’Kane, then it is easy to see why many believe the team who finish ahead of Woodview will be crowned league champions.
Bellurgan’s fine start to the season has been founded on the back of Darryn Gaynor’s goals. The Ardee man scored in United’s 3-1 win in the corresponding fixture earlier in the season but he was anonymous on Sunday, well marshalled by the central defensive pairing of Alan McCartney and the excellent Alan McKenna. As a result, Bellurgan never really looked like opening Woodview up on too many occasions.
The opening period saw Woodview completely boss the game and Armstrong saw a goalbound effort cleared off the line by Ciaran Rogan in the 7th minute before Smith just failed to get the touch needed to divert a Stephen Fisher half-volley into the net.
Trimble’s men continued to ask all the questions and Smith’s cut back from the byline across the face of goal deserved to be put away in the 10th minute. Mickey O’Kane then hooked a volley wide of the upright after a great move from left to right involving Ray McCann and Armstrong.
Bellurgan struggled to get a foothold in midfield with Danny O’Connor and Gavin Long coming out second best against the excellent Fisher and Chris Caulfield.
Alex Bothswell’s side did fashion a good opportunity in the 13th minute when Shane Finnegan picked out Ciaran Sheelan with an excellent cross from the left but the striker looped his header over Ciaran Taaffe’s crossbar.
Hearty then sidestepped away from Bellurgan keeper Arthur but, with the goal at his mercy, he squandered the chance and O’Kane saw the loose ball again blocked on the line by Rogan.
It was only a matter of time before the Bellurgan goal was breached and it came in the 23rd minute when Billy Smith got in behind the United back line to expertly finish in style.
Gaynor headed over after Ciaran Casey had directed a Murphy corner back across goal just two minutes later and Bellurgan were punished just shy of the half hour when Ray McCann cut inside to drive a fine effort past Arthur from 25-yards.
Such was Woodview’s dominance that it looked like the floodgates would open at this stage but United side were thrown a lifeline three minutes later when Sheelan’s attempted pass into Gaynor deflected off the shins of Caulfield and beat Ciaran Taaffe for a bizarre own goal.
The home side would have been hoping to get into the interval with just a one goal deficit to overturn but they were dealt a massive blow in the 43rd minute when Hearty rose highest to get a touch on Paul Warnock’s free-kick to restore Woodview’s two-goal advantage.
The second-half was played at a more pedestrian pace with Woodview happy to take the sting out of the game.
Bellurgan huffed and puffed but were limited to long distance efforts with Gavin Long forcing Taaffe into a good save before Shane Finnegan rattled the frame of the Woodview goal with a cross-cum-shot on the hour mark.
The Dundalk side always looked a threat on the break and they all but sealed the win in the 65th minute when Smith drove at the Bellurgan back four, going past two defenders before smashing a great effort past the helpless Arthur.
That looked to have knocked the stuffing out of Bellurgan but they were back in the game again two minutes later. The goal came after McCann carelessly gave possession back to the home side from a Woodview throw in, allowing Danny O’Connor to pick out Finnegan with a searching ball that the winger dispatched past the hesitant Taaffe.
Bellurgan went in search of another goal to set up a grandstand finish but they were left frustrated as Woodview stood firm. A few tetchy moments between both sets of players broke up the final stages with O’Connor lucky not to receive a red card for retaliating to a Caulfield tackle.
Taaffe did well to save from Bellurgan substitute MJ Hanlon late on and at that stage it should have been 5-2 but Smith was denied his hat-trick when Arthur stood tall to block the big no 11’s drive.