ST Mary’s moved up to second in the fledgling Canada Life Premier League standings on Saturday after a heard-earned point from their trip to St John’s.
Peter Langridge’s soon to be Bowl outfit looked to have been on course for all three points when the in-form Steven Priestnal struck his 10th of the season with just five minutes played.
However, Nick Hurt’s newly promoted side showed great determination and spirit to draw level just six minutes later when Kieran Quinn headed in his first goal for the club since switching from Kirk Michael in the summer.
The goal buoyed the hosts and they took a deserved lead just before the half-hour mark when Andy Glover beat Max Thomas with a sumptuous chip.
St Mary’s improved after the break, but came up against some stubborn home defence, until that man Priestnal popped up with eight minutes to go to land a share of the spoils for his side.
The visitors have made a good start to the campaign thanks in no small part to the red hot form of marksman Priestnal.
The St Mary’s number nine was again a threat from the off in this encounter at a rain-soaked Mullen-e-Cloie, rifling in an impressive shot from the edge of the area to give the visitors the early advantage.
St John’s responded well to the setback and began to play some nice football on the increasingly slick surface.
Kevin Shimell was just inches away from restoring parity to the fixture when St Mary’s were caught unawares by a quick St John’s corner.
The momentum the westerners were building up paid off in the 11th minute when Quinn nodded in a trademark header after connecting with Hurt’s measured free kick into the St Mary’s box from deep.
St John’s good spell continued and last season’s JCK Division Two champions edged in front with 27 minutes on the clock when Hurt found Glover in space in the St Mary’s half with a lovely drilled through ball. The former Foxdale and Pulrose man homed in on goal before floating a tremendous finish over island keeper Thomas.
The visitors tried to muster a response but the closest they came to drawing level in the remainder of the opening 45 was James Murphy’s well-struck effort which was narrowly deflected over the bar.
St Mary’s put their opponents under pressure from the start of the second half, full-back Paul Doyle’s crisp shot cannoning off the post before rebounding off the back of St John’s keeper Gary Burgess and behind for a corner.
The visitors search for a leveller continued but they nearly found themselves further behind when Callum Taggart was put through one on one with Thomas. The St Mary’s keeper underlined his talent, however, producing a fine save with his outstretched leg to deny the St John’s man.
Langridge’s charges continued to edge proceedings without ever really testing Burgess, thanks in large to some resolute defending from Quinn and Hurt at the heart of the St John’s defence.
Martin Reilly looked to have escaped the shackles imposed by the St John’s defence only to be denied by a good covering tackle by St John’s youngster Eric Kelly.
Priestnal was the next to break through, but for once the Golden Boot holder’s aim was ashy as he skewed wide after beating the St John’s offside trap.
The St Mary’s striker made amends just over a minute later when he latched on to Liam Doyle’s ball over the top of the Johnners’ defence. Priestnal homed in on goal before dispatching a typically accomplished finish past man mountain Burgess.
Priestnal smelt another hat-trick in the air and he again sprang clear after Chris Anderson’s clever pass dissected the St John’s defence. On this occasion, however, Burgess came out on top producing a terrific stop to deny the in-form talisman.
Burgess matched his heroics in the final minute as St Mary’s looked like they may steal all three points. Substitute Dave Skillen was played in, but Burgess came off his line well to deny the former Douglas Royal and Pulrose man.
St John’s Gary Burgess, Eric Kelly, Kieran Quinn, Nick Hurt, Wes Kitching, Kevin Shimell, Louis Morris, Krasmir Stoev, Nicky Sloan, Callum Taggart (Richard Winn 87m), Andy Glover (c).
St Mary’s Max Thomas, Paul Doyle (Dave Skillen 66m), Adam Pate (Keith Byrne 84m), Liam Doyle, Dominic McGreevy (c), Tom Weir, James Murphy, Brian Crellin (Chris Anderson 10m), Steven Priestnal, Martin Reilly, Tony Cain.
Referee Gareth Jones. Assistants Alan Cowin, Tony McMeiken.
Man of the Match Hurt (St John’s) Player-manager was calming influence at the back and set up both goals for the Johnners.
Match rating 4*