It’s not looking good for Barn United in Division 1A. Tommy Kincaid’s men are nine points away from the safety zone, with an inferior goal difference to third-bottom Orangefield and just one game in hand.
United have only five games left and there’s little prospect of a ‘barnstorming’ end to the campaign, with just two points out of their last 21 - both of them against Abbey Villa.
On Thursday, a 4-1 defeat by title-chasing Rathfriland wasn’t entirely unexpected; especially after playing more than half the game with 10 men following the dismissal of Neil McKnight. Matt McDonald was the Barn marksman.
On Saturday United were away to a Dunmurry Rec side already in the mid table comfort zone, with more than one eye surely on Monday night’s Clarence Cup semi-final against Immaculata.
Granted, three points wouldn’t have taken Barn off the bottom but it might have provided a springboard for the run-in but instead they were hit for six.
Barn looked the hungrier side in the opening session but presentable offerings were spurned and instead, not for the first time of late, they were unsprung by a long ball over the top just before the break.
United were already tip-toeing on eggshells after Dean Haggan injured a thumb in the warm-up, and it proved decisive when he dropped a ball from a corner just after the turnaround, resulting in Dunmurry’s second.
Two down, Haggan wisely decided to hand the gloves to Stephen Smyth who was beaten four times; a Dunmurry win that could ‘wreck’ Barn’s already diminishing hopes of survival.
Manager Kincaid, however, maintains: “We’ll keep fighting away until it’s mathematically impossible. The first half was the best we’ve played for a long time but through a mixture of bad finishing and bad luck, we got nothing out of it.”
Larne Tech failed to give Barn a boost, losing 2-1 at Orangefield, despite taking the lead through Ciaran Kelly. Manager Johnny Hastings said: “It was typical of our away form this season; other teams seem to outwork us. Orangefield looked like they needed the points but you can’t expect to miss three one-on-ones and win.” Niall McAllister, Kelly and Chris Agnew were the guilty parties.
In Division 1b, Newcastle’s surprising home defeat by Ballynahinch United has put Wellington Rec’s promotion credentials back in their own hands - if they win their four remaining games.
Two Scott Todd penalties helped them to Saturday’s 2-1 success at Portaferry Rovers; the lively Dean Shaw twice triggering Rovers’ defensive alarm. In between, Andy Waide and Colin Paisley could have had Rec riding more comfortably given that Portaferry halved the deficit just after the turnaround.
Only the post prevented Chris Morton giving Wellington some breathing space, but the Rec rearguard stood firm, helped by a Man of the Match performance from keeper David Harrison.
Although fourth-from-bottom, UUJ are only one point better off than the three sides below them, inching their way slowly to safely after a third successive draw - this time at home a Rosario side unbeaten in their previous nine.
The arrival of Ciaran McMullan and Paddy O’Donnell off the bench changed things round for UUJ; O’Donnell cancelling out Rosario’s first-half opener by volleying in a Kevin O’Neill pass eight minutes from time.
Player manager Billy Youle said “I’ve been here for eight games. I won my first three. Since then, it’s been four draws and one defeat but the players haven’t been available every week. I haven’t been able to put the same team out twice!”
After a 2-0 midweek home defeat to 1C leaders Downshire YM, Mossley got their promotion bandwagon back on the road with a 4-1 away success over a Saintfield side they had beaten 2-1 a week earlier.
Manager Garry Campbell commented: “This one was more comfortable than the week before. I changed the defence around from the Downshire game and the boys played well. The big downside was Chris Proctor breaking his ankle early on.
“It looks as if Downshire will win the league, but we’re going all out for second.”
Mossley’s goals - two in each half - came from Paul Harper, Brian Galloway, Lee Graham and Stevie Bell. The Saints grabbed a late consolation.
There was disappointment for Nortel, beaten 4-0 at home Ards Rangers after going down 2-1 through a disputed 96th-minute goal to leaders Immaculata earlier in the week. Adam Irwin got the Nortel goal.
On Saturday Nortel were without Elliot McKimm, Davy Freyne, Stuart Crawford and Willie McMordie. Manager Lee McCartney lamented, “After playing so well during the week, we just didn’t turn up!”