Amateur League: Nortel draw with Mals

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Premier Division: It’s 10 games in a row now that Nortel have conceded at least two goals, though perhaps it wasn’t that unexpected, given that they had to play more than half this clash with Malachians with only 10 men, following the dismissal of Robert Lowry before the break.

Indeed, Nortel’s one and only clean sheet this term was a 7-0 Border Regiment Cup romp over 1B strugglers Saintfield United in August, but assistant-manager John McMinn suggested: “We could have grabbed all three points, but I’m happy enough with a draw. That first half was as good as we’ve played all season. We really went at them – but the sending off was a turning point.”

Jordan Clarke had already demanded a fine save from the Malachians keeper, before crossing for Ethan Boylan to give Nortel a 10th-minute lead, courtesy of a deft back-heel flick.

And Nortel would have been celebrating again had the Mals keeper not distinguished himself in clawing away a Jordan Clarke free-kick.

At the other end, Neil Edgar showed his promise with a fine double-save to defy Moore and McCorry.

While the visitors had a penalty appeal turned down when Reilly went down under Davy Freyne’s challenge, they were fortunate to retain their full quota when Hughes scythed down Clarke. It looked like a clear goalscoring opportunity, but the referee settled for yellow.

The mood among Nortel’s hardened few was dampened on 42 minutes when Robert Lowry sent a forward sprawling to the ground. The two incidents weren’t entirely dissimilar, only this time the official did opt for red and not yellow.

Malachians were back on terms eight minutes after the break with diminutive striker James Moore getting his head to a McAtee cross.

Two minutes later, the north Belfast side were in front, thanks to Moore’s newly-found head for heights; this time with Sharp providing the left-wing delivery.

In the not too distant past, such a double blow, hot on the heels of the sending-off, would have sent Nortel reeling, but Paul Foy’s young cubs stuck to their task and restored parity on 62 minutes when the impressive Jordan Clarke thundered a diagonal pass from Freyne into the top corner of the net.

Clarke would have been celebrating again minutes later but for the agility of Mals’ keeper, after he got onto the end of a measured cross from younger brother Timmy.

On 67 minutes, however, Malachians were back in front with Moore completing his hat-trick, this time nodding in a Barry Baggley free-kick.

The 10 men, however, weren’t to be denied and they gained their reward eight minutes later when Boylan nodded a Jordan Clarke corner into the top corner.

Nortel could have clinched all three points, but Jordan Clarke was denied by the fingertips of the keeper in a one-on-one.

Nortel: Edgar – Craig, Lowry, Simpson, Freyne – Lorrimer (Davey), Caughey, D Anderson – T Clarke (Hanna), J Clarke, Boylan. Sub (unused) McMinn.

More Amateur League coverage in this week’s Times