DHSOB’s Canada Life Premier League title tilt continued with a 0-2 win at reigning top-flight champions Rushen on Saturday.
The win moves Colin Purvis and Chris Dycher’s men six points clear at the top of the table as they aim to keep the pressure up in unbeaten St George’s who have played four games less than their championship rivals from Blackberry Lane.
After a scrappy first half in which both teams struggled to test the opposition goalkeeper, Old Boys improved after the break and goals from skipper Craig Stewart and man of the match Robbie Ward sealed their side’s 17th victory of their league campaign.
In what was a largely forgettable opening period, both teams were rushed in possession and failed to enjoy any real time on the ball.
Indeed the game’s first real chance didn’t manifest itself until the 18th minute when Stewart latched onto Michael Hooper’s through ball, riding the challenge of island defender Adam Cregeen before shooting narrowly wide.
In front of a partisan home crowd, Rushen tried to seize the initiative and Mike Edge tested the handling skills of Old Boys’ stopper Sam Holliday when he cut in from the right.
Striker Josh Kelly, playing in a more withdrawn playmaker role, then tried his luck, but his well-struck shot from distance was just off target.
The Spaniards produced some neat stuff as the game neared the interval but, as was the story of the half, didn’t really bring Holliday into action – midfielder Ciaran Brown coming closest to breaking Gareth Jones and Steve Burns’s team’s deadlock when he fired over from the edge of the area.
In what has become a characteristic of their recent games, Old Boys made a flying start to the second 45, taking the lead barely seven minutes into it.
Stewart latched onto a long ball and used his pace to move clear of the Rushen backline before rounding stand-in goalkeeper Dickie Corrin and slotting into the empty net.
Rushen nearly mustered an almost immediate riposte when Kelly volleyed just wide after one of the home side’s corners was only cleared as far as the edge of the Old Boys’ box.
The visitors soon moved into the ascendancy, but were limited to a number of speculative efforts from distance by some stout defending by the hosts.
Substitute Gary Quirk marked his return from suspension with a fizzed shot from 25 yards before brother John did likewise after a sortie forward from his right-back berth.
Old Boys eventually wore down the Rushen resistance in the 75th minute when Stewart’s deep cross from the right was nicely cushioned by Sean Gavin. Ward was on hand to cap a fine all round performance in the DHSOB midfield engine room with a delightful volley that gave Corrin no chance from 18 yards out.
Two so very nearly became three just 60 seconds later when David Quirk sprung the Rushen offside trap before finding the side netting.
The second goal finally sparked the lacklustre Spaniards into life and the hosts enjoyed some good pressure in the games’ final quarter. Rushen’s stand-out performer Kelly teed up the in-form Edge, but the former Castletown striker headed wide.
With five minutes left to play Messrs Jones and Burns introduced young forward Kyle Lunn for Edge and the combination hot shot nearly had an instant impact drawing a fine save out of Holliday after only a matter of moments of the pitch.
As the game entered stoppage time, Lunn again forced a good stop from the visiting custodian after being played in by island squad member Kelly, but it was too little too late for the Spaniards who remain firmly rooted in mid-table.
Rushen: Dickie Corrin, Jordan Watterson, Adam Cregeen, Michael Baker, Chris Shimmin, Daniel Pownall (Neil Curphey 77m), Chris Brown, Justin Hawley, Steve Riding, Josh Kelly, Mike Edge (Kyle Lunn 85m). Sub not used: Andrew Cregeen
DHSOB: Sam Holliday, Iain Ramsay, Tommy Miller, Liam Buckley, Mike Hooper, John Quirk, David Quirk, Craig Stewart, Sean Gavin (Daniel Doyle 84m), Lee Ford (Gary Quirk 46m), Robbie Ward. Sub not used: Luke Stewart
Referee: Chris Taggart
Assistants: Matty Evans, John Lovelady
Booked: J. Quirk, Hooper (DHSOB)
Man of the Match: Ward (DHSOB) - capped a busy shift in the Old Boys’ midfield with a well-taken goal
Match rating: HHHII