Bell ring in title retention

by James Hendicott

BLUEBELL United secured the point they needed to take the LSL Sunday Senior title, twice coming from behind to maintain their slender advantage over neighbours and nearest challengers Crumlin United as the top-of-the-table season-closer finished 2-2.
“It was always going to be the last game of the season,” manager Andy Noonan told GazetteSport seconds after soaking his squad in champagne.
And so it proved in an epic showdown between the two stand-out sides of the campaign,
The action came in a frantic first period in Red Cow, which saw the pair trade blows in a display of high-quality attacking football. James Lee opened the scoring after only eight minutes for visitors Crumlin, raising hopes of an end of season smash and grab as he reacted first to some penalty box pinball and slotted a snatched volley into the Bluebell net.
The equaliser came in short order with Peter Sherlock and two Crumlin defenders going up for an in-swinging free kick that ricocheted of all three, and powerfully into the Bluebell net.
The game continued in the same fashion: the free-scoring Greg Moorhouse took advantage of a defensive mix up from Bluebell to pass into an open goal and give Crumlin a second lead, just a couple of minutes before Jordan Keegan somehow found space at the back post to put Bluebell level, and in control once again.
From half an hour in, the tension continued but the drama mellowed. Crumlin will point to some soft refereeing, including a penalty area handball that prompted rowdy protests and some first half fisticuffs that were all-but overlooked.
In truth, though, the Bluebell defence and imperious keeper Andy McNulty were just a little too steadfast for the free-flowing visitors.
A series of attacking substitutions didn’t quite have the desired effect for Crumlin as the game petered out with a clearly injured McNulty in the Bluebell goal snatching a couple of goal bound efforts from beneath his bar, while Bluebell were otherwise able to keep the ball largely out of harm’s way.
The final whistle saw Bluebell’s title retention party kick off with a happy centre-circle scrum, with manager Noonan reflecting on the day.
“Andy McNulty pulled his hamstring from his first kick out, and he didn’t want to come off. The man is a machine. Two great saves at the end. I’m delighted for the lads.
“The second goal was a calamity,” he added. “We’d just noticed that Andy’s hamstring had gone, and the message didn’t get to the players.
“But to a man, they were excellent. That’s a great Crumlin United side, deserved Intermediate Cup winners. We’ll be going all out for a third in a row next season.”

Related Articles