VIDEO SLIDESHOW: Craig’s hat-trick fires Nortel to crucial victory

NORTEL climbed back up to second in the Amateur League’s Premier Division after Saturday’s 4-3 victory over fellow challengers Ards Rangers at the Factory Grounds.

Both sides really went at it right from the start with Nortel having the first real offering when Andrew Simpson directed a Timmy Clarke cross just the wrong side of the upright.

Ards Rangers' Daryll Kernohan shields the ball from Nortel's Owen Thompson. Photo: Philip McCloy

Ards Rangers' Daryll Kernohan shields the ball from Nortel's Owen Thompson. Photo: Philip McCloy

Instead it was Ards who broke the ice; heading the ball in at the back post. 

That goal sparked off a period of Rangers pressure and they consolidated that lead, with another headed effort from a corner.

Nortel, however, set off on the road to recovery when Simon Craig, fastening onto Simpson’s sublime pass, steadied himself before slamming the ball wide of Ards Rangers’ keeper David Harrison.

The home side were quickest out of the blocks on the resumption, drawing level when Craig dispatched Timmy Clarke’s low near-post cross.

Craig completed his hat-trick soon afterwards, beating the onrushing Harrison to Lee Lenaghan’s searching pass.

Nortel perhaps could have been home and dry had Harrison not pulled off an excellent save to defy Simpson, and instead it was the County Down side who were back on par when defender Jamie Patterson got onto the end of a corner.

It was the Factory side, however, who grabbed what turned out to be the winner; substitute Adam Irwin rising high to power a Lenaghan corner into the top corner.

As assistant-manager John McMinn concluded: “It was a great victory, especially showing great character in coming back from two down. It shows just how far we’ve come as it’s a match we probably would have lost a year ago.”

On Saturday, it’s the Clarence Cup and a third-round tie against Finaghy YM switched from Weddersburn to the Factory Grounds.

Nortel: Murray – D Anderson, Thompson, Cardwell, Freyne – J Clarke (Conlin), Lenaghan, Herron, T Clarke – Simpson, Craig (Irwin). Sub (unused) Caughey.

Slideshow photos: Phillip McCloy