MAIDEN CITY Academy’s under-12 representatives came so close to producing a stunning comeback in the NIBFA National League on Saturday in an enthralling encounter against Portadown Youth.
Facing a seemingly insurmountable five goal deficit at half-time, the Derry side rallied and Cahir McMonagle netted four goals without reply after the break and suddenly they were back in the contest.
However, a late penalty awarded to the home side restored their two goal cushion and presented Portadown with maximum points but it was a hugely promising second half performance from Maiden City Academy.
The Co. Armagh boys started brightly and soon had MCA under sustained pressure and they made the visitors pay when netting twice inside the opening five minutes.
City responded well but simply couldn’t find the key pass to unlock the Portadown defence.
City’s attempts to keep playing out from the back cost them a third goal as a mistake in midfield led to Portadown Youth extending their advantage further.
The Derry boys were understandably shocked by their hosts’ quick start but they managed to get back into the game with a much needed goal.
MCA closed the Portadown midfield down and won possession in the final third and when Jamie Robinson fed Marc Dixon he turned away from his man, out-paced the next defender and finished neatly past the keeper.
Almost immediately from the restart Portadown found a way through City’s defence once again and, despite a really good save onto the post from Ben Mills, the centre forward reacted quickest and applied the finish to give Portadown a 4-1 lead.
City were impressive in possession and creating several chances but they couldn’t make any count.
And their opponents made them pay at the other end with some good movement and finishing.
Before the half-time whistle the home side looked home and dry as the sailed into a 6-1 lead as City conceded a several soft goals.
As the second half got underway the visitors produced a superb display and one they’ve been threatening for a number of weeks.
Inside the opening five minutes of the second half McMonagle scored to reduce the deficit and this goal gave MCA a huge boost in confidence as they started to dominate in all areas of the pitch.
With City dominating and McMonagle receiving plenty of good service from Luke Toland and Jamie Robinson in midfield and Matthew McGarrigle and Sean Carlin out wide, it wasn’t long before it was 6-3.
And it was McGarrigle who got clear of his marker and slipped a good pass for McMonagle to run onto and he out-paced the defence before finishing with great accuracy.
Soon afterwards full-back Conor Polley found Sean Carlin who raced clear before timing his pass to McMonagle perfectly and the striker sealed his hat-trick with an emphatic finish.
With only two goals in the game and still 20 minutes left on the clock, City sensed for the first time that they might be able to get something from the game.
And they put pressure on the home lot when Toland’s through-ball allowed McMonagle to skip past the goalkeeper and finish from an acute angle as City remarkably clawed their way back to within a single goal of their opponents.
Portadown, to their credit, started to get a foothold back in the game after this and a rare mistake from Mills in goal gifted them a penalty which they converted to stretch the lead back to two goals.
MCA pushed hard to close the deficit again and despite a number of good opportunities they failed to alter the scoreline.
Despite the defeat the Derry boys will be able to take a huge amount of confidence from the performance and will hope to continue their impressive recent form into next week’s game.
Maiden City Academy - Ben Mills, Robbie Donnell, Ross Barr, Tom King, Tyler Toland, Jamie Robinson, Luke Toland, Cahir McMonagle, Aaron Rush, Marc Dixon, Matthew McGarrigle; Subs - Jake Quinnell, Connor Polley, Sean Carlin.