Updated: Friday, 07 Feb 2014 22:59 | Comments
Mark Poland’s injury-time goal helped Down to a 2-07 to 2-05 Allianz League Division 2 win over Armagh at the Athletic Grounds.
James McCartan’s charges came from behind twice in the second half of this encounter to take the lead, in a game where Armagh were hugely dominant in the opening 35 minutes.
However, the loss of Robbie Tasker in the 57th minute proved costly as Down finished strongly, with an unanswered 1-01, including Poland’s late goal to ensure a two-point win.
Defences were certainly on top in the first half, with Down’s defence under particular pressure with a strong swirling wind blowing into their faces for the opening 35 minutes.
Armagh edged dominance in the midfield sector, particularly in the opening quarter and showed great pace at feeding their attack, with Down goalkeeper Shane Harrison quickly called into action.
Stefen Campbell had the opening goal chance for the hosts, but his third minute effort was blocked out by Harrison.
Tony Kernan sent the resulting 45 short, for Ciaran Rafferty to open the scoring on his league debut.
Kernan was again involved in Armagh’s second score, as he pointed a fifth minute free to edge Paul Grimley’s side 0-02 to 0-00 ahead.
Armagh were guilty of eight first half wides and countless other misses into the hands of Harrison, including a Kernan effort in the 11th minute.
Down eventually opened their account two minutes later through a Donal O’Hare pointed free, but Armagh continued to exert huge dominance.
Armagh registered their fourth wide after 22 minutes, and found their shooting boots once again soon after with Jamie Clarke snatching their third point, before the only goal of the opening half was produced.
Armagh cut open the Down defence for the first goal of the night in the 27th minute, in a move which began with Man of the Match Ciaran McKeever launching the ball from defence.
The Orchard captain led by example and fed Clarke who sent the ball into Robbie Tasker who done a one-two with Kevin Dyas, before Dyas smashed the ball past Down keeper Harrison.
Trailing by five points, panic stations began to set in with Down, but it wasn’t until injury-time before they added their second score.
Points from Kevin McKernan and O’Hare ensured the visitors cut the gap, with Dyas goal the difference at the break on a 1-03 to 0-03 score-line.
Down only managed one point from play in the first half, but having played against a strong wind in the opening 35 minutes, the visitors would have been reasonably happy just to be a goal in arrears at the interval.
With the weather continuing to worsen, the match officials talkback technology caused some problems at the break, with both teams gifted some extra minutes in the dressing-rooms, until the technological problems were overcome.
Down manger James McCartan also revealed concerns at half-time that a number of players had hypothermia put the second half in doubt.
It went ahead and began at frantic pace, as all of Armagh’s first-half efforts were undone within 90 seconds of the restart.
Poland registering the first of his two second half goals to tie the game at 1-03 apiece, before a Conor Maginn score edged the visitors in front for the first time.
Tasker’s only point of the night tied the game for the second time, but Down were hungrier at this stage as a second McKernan score edged them back in front.
This game had certainly upped in physicality, with Down midfielder Ryan Mallon shown the only black card of the night, before Armagh duo Clarke and Ciaran Rafferty were shown yellow cards in separate incidents over the next three minutes.
A Niall Madine point broke a nine-minute scoring deadlock from either side, before a Kernan point effort dropped short and Stephen Harold was on hand to poke the ball to the net to hand Armagh a 2-04 to 1-06 lead with 15 minutes remaining.
Armagh lost Tasker soon after through a red card, following an off-the-ball incident, and they failed to recover from this.
Down dominated possession in the closing quarter, with substitute Eoin McCartan scoring a point from his first touch on the stroke of the 70th minute, before Poland delivered his second goal in injury-time to ensure a two-point win.
DOWN: S Harrison; D McCartan, P Turley, D O’Hagan; R Boyle, A Carr, C Garvey; K McKernan (0-02), R Mallon; B McArdle, M Poland (2-00), J Johnston; D O’Hare (0-02, 2f), N Madine (0-01), C Maginn (0-01).
Subs: R Johnston for Mallon (Black Card 49); D O’Hanlon for D McCartan (51); E McCartan (0-01) for Boyle (67); B Coulter for Madine (73).
ARMAGH: P McEvoy; A Mallon, C Vernon, P Hughes; M Shields, C McKeever, C Rafferty (0-01); S Harold (1-00), E Rafferty; S Campbell (0-01), K Dyas (1-00), B Mallon; J Clarke (0-01), T Kernan (0-01, 1f), R Tasker (0-01).
Subs: S Forker for B Mallon (51); R Grugan for C Rafferty (57); N McConville for Clarke (71); A Findon for Harold (73).
REFEREE: David Coldrick (Meath)