CORINTHIANS came from behind to beat 10-man St John’s 1-2 at Mullen-e-Cloie on Friday evening.
Eric Kelly’s clearance come shot from the halfway line had given the much-discussed Saints a spectacular second minute lead.
However, the Johnners’ Andy Glover received a straight red card for a strong challenge on Blane Slattery just shy of half-time as the Canada Life Premier League’s fixture’s complexion began to change.
Despite a spirited start to the second period the numerically disadvantaged hosts found themselves pegged back in the 63rd minute when Corinthians skipper Louis Thornton lashed home the leveller.
The Whites finished the game the stronger of the two and edged decisively in front from the penalty spot just four minutes from time when Kane Ridings was adjudged to have been brought down in the area by Saints’ Bulgarian keeper Damyan Petkov. Thornton made no mistake from 12 yards to secure the Ballafletcher outfit maximum points and a surprise victory over their high-flying hosts.
The ambitious home side’s bid to travel to July’s Bermuda Island Games has been one of Manx football’s main topics of discussion over the last couple of weeks and they started like a team determined to prove a point.
Indeed the game was barely a couple of minutes old when the Nick Hurt’s hosts took the lead when Eric Kelly’s block come clearance caught Corinthians keeper Joe Kelly off his line and dipped under the bar.
United began the encounter second in the top-flight standings and their bright start continued, experienced midfielder Krasimir Stoev going close as Corinthians struggled to keep possession.
Johnny McDowell’s visitors eventually overcame their sluggish start and summer signing Chris Feeney was a whisker away from restoring parity to the game when he crashed a free-kick from the edge of area against the bar.
A nip-and-tuck encounter developed, but both lacked their usual cohesion in the final third until the final 15 minutes of the half.
Former Corinthians striker Stephen Glover forced a fine sprawling save out of Kelly before Slattery saw a header cleared off the line by United’s John Wrigley at the other end other pitch.
Andy Glover was then sent for his early bath as the opening 45 came to a feisty conclusion.
St John’s belied their 10-man status at the start of the second period and perhaps would have doubled their lead four minutes into it had it not been for a fine stop from Kelly.
Jamie Moffatt broke down the left flank and centred a low, inviting cross to the unmarked Stephen Glover. Kelly repelled the former island striker’s effort to keep his side in the match.
Kelly’s save was soon matched in the attacking third by his team-mates. Michael Callister was becoming an increasingly influential figure for the Whites down the right wing. When he was fouled the resulting free-kick was tossed into the box where it was met by the head of Slattery. His effort was acrobatically repelled by Petkov only for the loose ball to fall to Thornton who thumped home the rebound.
The goal buoyed the visitors who finally began to make use of their extra man as the game crackled towards an entertaining conclusion.
Thornton’s long ball released Ryan Burns and he shot agonisingly across the face of goal before Petkov produced a good double save to deny Feeney and Callister in quick succession.
As a draw looked the likely result Corinthians struck a decisive second. Ridings nipped in ahead of Petkov to receive Chris Cannell’s long ball down the channel, the St John’s keeper bringing down the Whites winger as the latter tried to round him. Thornton made no mistake from the spot.
St John’s had once last chance to clinch a point, but Kelly was again up to the task parrying Moffatt’s late snap shot.
St John’s: Damyan Petkov, Eric Kelly, Sam Ingham, Nick Hurt, Johnny Holland, Andy Glover, John Wrigley, Krasimir Stoev (Nicky Sloan 73m), Jamie Moffatt, Stephen Glover, John Haggerdon.
Corinthians: Joe Kelly, Michael Callister, Darren Cain, Chris Feeney, Chris Cannell, Ryan Burns, Josh Ridings (Calum Campbell 20m), Louis Thornton (Noel Quigley 89m), Lewis Griffiths, Blane Slattery, Kane Ridings.
Referee: Chris Taggart
Assistants: Glenn Weir and Kenny Crellin
Sent off: A. Glover (St John’s)
Man of the Match: Thornton (Corinthians) Whites skipper bagged both decisive goals for his side
Match rating: HHHII