Report by Mark Strange
Larne welcomed Barry Gray’s Warrenpoint Town to Inver Park looking to continue their hitherto impressive pre-season form, and came out on top with a 1-0 win against their fellow Premiership opponents.
Larne dominated possession in the early stages without really creating any clear-cut chances. A dangerous-looking cross from Jeff Hughes was gathered by Gabriel Sava in the visitors’ goal.
After 10 minutes the away side had their first threatening moment of the game when a loose ball from a free-kick was scuffed wide. After this, Larne pinged the ball around the pitch well and made ‘Point do a lot of fruitless running. The first clear sight of goal for either team came after 15 minutes when a lovely flick from Mark Randall found its way to Andrew Scott who attempted an audacious chip which left Sava stranded only to see it come off the bar.
It seemed like it was only a matter of time before the Invermen broke the deadlock but after 25 minutes the away side had a glorious chance to take the lead against the run-of-play. A seemingly innocuous free kick was lofted into the box and headed into the air by ‘Point centre half Gavin Peers. He and Albert Watson chased the loose ball and the Larne no. 4 stepped on his opposite number’s foot and the ref pointed to the spot.
Ryan Swan stepped up to the spot but Conor Devlin pulled off a textbook penalty save down to his right to tip the ball around the post and caught the resulting corner. Unfortunately the stop didn’t seem to galvanise Tiernan Lynch’s men and it was Devlin – who looked in mid-season form – who came to the rescue again as after a bit of head tennis in and around the home box, he made an even better save from Swan again, this time thwarting an acrobatic overhead kick with a flying save.
Larne did have one more clear sight of goal, before the break as Ronan Hale created space for himself with a nice touch and hit one with the outside of his right boot which had Sava sweating a bit but ultimately fizzed wide. The half-time whistle blew at 0-0 and a frustrating half for both sides.
Tiernan Lynch made all five of his subs at half time and one of those subs had a great chance to break the deadlock after barely three minutes of the second half. Lee Lynch found himself one-on-one with Sava but hit his shot straight into the keeper’s legs. At the other end, replacement ‘keeper Conor Mitchell had a more routine save to make than the man he replaced when Peers’ powerful header from a corner was straight at him.
Another Larne sub, Martin Donnelly was getting plenty of touches and looked dangerous every time he was on the ball. He linked up well with Ben Tilney just before the hour before pulling it back to David McDaid – also fresh off the bench – but he couldn’t make good contact and it was a routine save.
Donnelly and McDaid linked up again soon after for what was arguably the host’s best chance of the game so far when the former’s cross was headed just over the bar by the latter. The Inver men were looking more and more dangerous with ‘Point struggling to get a foothold.
Some dangerous crosses from Tomas Cosgrove and Graham Kelly tested the creaking Warrenpoint backline which had held stoically firm going into the last ten minutes. The ever-dependable Faud Sule linked with captain Jeff Hughes to no avail but, eventually, with five minutes to go, the deadlock was broken and it was that man Donnelly.
Josh Robinson picked out Hughes with a cross-field pass and he played an almost-telepathic pass inside to Donnelly who had the time and space to smash his shot into the roof of the net to the delight of the home faithful. It was no less than the hosts deserved as it was looking more and more like one of those frustrating days. Donnelly still had time for one more chance before the end as he sent a rasping drive just over the bar but one goal was enough.
It was a resolute performance from Warrenpoint which will give Barry Gary some solace but for Tiernan Lynch and his charges it was another pleasing pre-season win – and clean sheet – borne out of grit, determination and a spark from messrs Devlin and Donnelly at either end and in either half of the game.
Larne continue their preparations for the new season when they welcome Derry City to Inver Park on Tuesday evening (8pm).
Larne: Conor Devlin; Albert Watson; Josh Robinson; Faud Sule; Mark Randal; Andrew Scott; Ben Tilney; Andrew Mitchell; Ronan Hale; Tomas Cosgrove; Jeff Hughes (C) Subs: Conor Mitchell (GK); Graham Kelly; David McDaid; Martin Donnelly; Lee Lynch
Warrenpoint Town: Gabriel Sava (GK); Colm Deasy; Steven Ball; Gavin Peers; Kealan Dillon; Fra McCafferey (C); Luke Gallagher; Ryan Swan; Matthew Knox; Stuart Hutchinson; Danny Wallace Subs: Jake O’Connor; Alan O’Sullivan; Adam Carroll; Ben Mullen; Kris Cowan; Andy Coleman (GK)
Referee: Steven Gregg
Photo: Bill Guiller