Blagoy Smilyanov’s 86th-minute strike ensured Onchan racked up their 10th successive JCK Division Two win on Saturday at the Nivison Stadium.
The Os’ 1-0 victory over Douglas Royal, however, was barely deserved after they arguably produced the worst performance of their current good run against a Royal side that had two players and joint-manager Nicky Gerrard sent off.
It would be easy to say the sendings off, Gavin Gawne in the first half for foul and abusive language and Greg Hoskisson harshly for a second yellow in the second half, shaped the game, but in truth the visitors had the better of what can at best be described as an insipid match after they were reduced to nine men.
The tone for the fixture was set in a dour opening period where both teams were sloppy in possession and rarely threatened in the opposing half.
Onchan looked a shadow of the side that had racked up nine wins on the bounce and had to rely on some stout defending from centre-back Mark Furness to blunt a marginally better Royal attack that contained Onchan old boy Paul Whitley.
With chances at a premium the opening 45’s first real talking point came after 25 minutes when Gawne received his marching orders by referee Scott Campion.
In the remonstrations that followed Royal joint-manager Gerrard was also sent to the stand by the match official after he encroached on the pitch as he tried to plead Gawne’s defence.
Although not a dirty match, there was a niggly undercurrent to the fixture and Campion was kept busy dishing out yellow cards to Royal trio Hoskisson, Craig Dolman and Andrew Lancaster.
The visitors continued to edge proceedings despite their numerical disadvantage, but it was Robbie Prescott’s men that came closest to troubling the scorers when Kraig Marsh’s 43rd-minute volley flashed just over.
Onchan tried to lift the game’s languid tempo at the start of the game’s second period and Daniel Bentham sent a speculative effort from distance narrowly ashy as a better game of football threatened to emerge.
However, then Royal found their number reduced further 11 minutes into the half when former Onchan man Hoskisson received an undeserved second caution after what looked like a strong but fair challenge on opposing skipper Steven McIntosh.
The second dismissal galvanised Royal further and just four minutes after Hoskisson’s sending off they nearly edged in front when a flicked header was cleared off the line.
As Onchan continued to wallow, Royal created the better of the few opportunities on offer. First tireless targetman James Halliday shot wide from distance before Whitley shot narrowly ashy after a good turn and run.
Lancaster was the next to try his luck, but his shot from 25 yards brought a smart save out of Onchan keeper Kiril Velev.
Just as it looked as if Royal might hold out for an unlikely point, Onchan struck.
Royal keeper Ian Took’s punch was only half cleared. The ball was eventually worked to Bulgarian Smilyanov on the edge of the area who produced the game’s only bit of genuine class with a driven finish that found the roof of the Royal goal despite a flailing hand from Took.
With the Royal squad depleted joint-manager Nicky Smith was forced to enter the fray in the 89th minute when Dolman hobbled off injured.
However, the former Gymns grand slam winner couldn’t conjure up an equaliser for his side and Onchan replacement Niall Stoddart nearly added a second for the hosts at the death.
Onchan: Kiril Velev, Paul Morris, Steven McIntosh (c), Mark Furness, Joey Hughes, Krasi Stoianov (Niall Stoddart 46m), Ali Morris (Ben Kelly 82m), Blagoy Smilyanov, Dom Dawson (John Quaye 73m), Daniel Bentham.
Douglas Royal: Ian Took, Stuart Foley, Adam Storr, Greg Hoskisson (c), Craig Dolman (Nicky Smith 89m), Alan Harding, Dan Beattie, Gavin Gawne, Paul Whitley (Billy McBurnie 76m), James Halliday, Andrew Lancaster.
Referee: Scott Campion
Sent off: Gawne, Hoskisson (Royal).
Booked :Dolman, Lancaster (Royal)
Man of the Match: Halliday (Royal) His tireless running in midfield and up front epitomised the Royal effort after going down to nine men.
Match rating: HHHHH