St John’s defied the odds to end their year in impressive fashion on Saturday by beating Laxey 3-0 at Glen Road.
The Miners’ first home defeat of the season moves the Mullen-e-Cloie outfit back into the Canada Life Premier League’s top four, a result that looked unlikely pre-kick-off with the Johnners missing several key first-team regulars and only able to field a bare XI.
However, the westerners gave a performance that absent player-manager Nick Hurt would have been proud of, soaking up swathes of Laxey pressure before taking advantage of a brittle Miners’ back four to net three times through John Haggerdon (2) and Rhys Oates’s pearler.
Derek Melville and Keith Brown’s home side were the quicker out of the blocks as a re-jigged United that was missing Hurt, Johnny Holland, Nick Leung, Callum Taggart and skipper Ste Glover struggled to get going.
Indeed the third-placed Miners should have taken the lead as early as the third minute, but Gary Williams blazed over after Ryan Williamson’s cut back had been blocked by the increasingly busy Damyan Petkov in the United goal.
Against the run of play, however, it was the westerners who would edge in front in the 13th minute when Haggerdon fired in his first goal of the top-flight encounter.
The home frontline led by Lee Cowley and Mark Wolfenden did their best to hit back but found themselves up against a determined St John’s defence superbly marshalled by Sam Ingham and the back for Christmas Ant Moore.
St John’s looked a threat on the break, especially from set pieces and the industrious Harry Rothwell saw a header cleared off the line by Paul Rowley as the Saints threatened to double their lead.
At the other end of the pitch Laxey continued to pile forward. The hosts eventually found a way past Petkov in the 20th minute, only for Saints full-back Eric Kelly to clear off the line and keep the visitors goal intact.
Livewire Rothwell then rattled the cross bar from a matter of yards as another swift Saints sortie nearly bore fruit.
As the half wore on you began to feel it was going to be one of those days for the home side as shots continued to fizz narrowly ashy of the charmed St John’s goal.
Nigel Beattie’s dipping volley went just over, before Williams was denied by Petkov after working a neat one-two with Cowley.
The Bulgarian stopper then combined with Moore to somehow keep our Wolfenden’s header.
With just three minutes until the half-time break, the Saints delivered another sucker punch to the Miners in spectacular fashion.
The hosts failed to deal with another cross into their box, the ball falling to youngster Oates on the edge of the area who dispatched a swerving volley past Andy Perry and into the top-right corner of the Laxey net.
Laxey substitutes Jackson Brown and Johnny Callow were added to the fray at the start of the second period. The pair’s introduction didn’t have the desired effect, however, as the Miners found themselves three goals down as the game began to open up.
Another direct attack caught out the home defence, Craig Dolman flicking on the long ball that Haggerdon finished at the second attempt to put his side on course for a sixth away win of the season.
Sam Theobald’s header looked to have reduced the arrears just three minutes later, only to be denied by a fantastic save by Petkov.
Wolfenden also went close with a well-hit shot as Ash Webster came off the bench to try and break the Miners’ duck.
As Laxey pressed though, they left themselves open at the back and the Saints perhaps should have added further to their tally in the game’s remaining half an hour.
First Haggerdon was denied his hat-trick after being played in by Oates, before Andy Chadwick’s shot took a big deflection off Jonny Shields before creeping just wide.
Laxey: Andy Perry, Michael Haslett (John Callow 46m), Darryl Haslett (Jackson Brown 46m), Sam Theobald, Ryan Williamson, Gary Williams, Nigel Beattie (Ash Webster 60m), Paul Rowley, Jonny Shields, Lee Cowley, Mark Wolfenden.
St John’s: Damyan Petkov, Eric Kelly, Sam Ingham, Ant Moore, Wes Kitching, Harry Rothwell, Louis Morris, Andrew Chadwick, Craig Dolman, Rhys Oates, John Haggerdon.
Referee: Peter Greenhill
Assistants: Gerry Thomson and Stuart Kneen
Booked Williamson (Laxey)
Man of the Match: Ingham (St John’s) - shone at the back with Moore and Petkov to help keep the Saints fifth clean sheet of the term. Only Geordies (6) and St Mary’s (9) have kept more.
Match rating: HHHII