Saints up to second with win over Mills

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ST Mary’s moved up to second in the Canada Life Premier League on Saturday with a thumping 1-7 win over Union Mills at Garey Mooar.

Sam Kenny’s Saints belied a deteriorating pitch and bitterly cold temperatures to convincingly overcome their mid-table hosts and move to within five points of top-flight pacesetters St George’s.

Summer signing Stephen Whitley and hot shot Steven Priestnal did much of the damage for the Bowl outfit, grabbing three and two goals respectively. Midfielder Tom Weir and Marc Priestnal added one goal apiece for good measure as the Saints comfortably completed a league double over their spirited opponents.

Such a gulf in the scoreline didn’t look likely in a tight first half which saw defence on top.

Whitley, however, was presented with a golden chance to edge his side in front after barely a minute when he charged down Mills’ keeper Danny Christian’s clearance. The former Castletown youngster rounded the Garey Mooar stopper only to drag his shot agonisingly across the face of goal.

Whitley’s chance jolted the Millers into life and they were soon the side on the front-foot. Crucially, however, the Millers couldn’t test Max Thomas’s understudy in the St Mary’s goal, Geoff Crennell, and their enthusiastic start was soon dampened by two clinical finishes in the space of seven minutes from Whitley.

The junior island international opened the game’s scoring in the 11th minute dispatching a cool finish past Christian after linking up well with Steven Priestnal.

The latter’s brother Marc then turned provider for Whitley’s second slinging in a low cross from the left that the talented teen neatly converted at the near post.

The quick-fire double naturally buoyed the visitors and they pressed in search of a third, but came up against some spirited Mills defence led by the impressive Craig Ennett.

As the opening 45 drew to a scrappy conclusion, the Saints were a whisker away from adding a third only to see Connor Gorman’s cross come shot glance the top of the Mills’ cross-bar.

St Mary’s made a bright start to the second period, but found themselves pegged back six minutes into it when Martin Reilly was adjudged to have handled Chris Kelly’s cross in the Saints’ box by referee Scott Campion.

Lively winger Matthew Cain stepped up to cooly convert from the spot and give his side some hope of claiming something from the contest.

This hope, however, was only short lived as Kenny’s charges restored their two-goal advantage just two minutes later. A swift Saints’ counter saw the ball delieverd into the box from the left-hand side to Golden Boot contender Steven Priestnal. His resulting looped effort looked to be arrowing in over Christian and into the goal only to be forced home by Marc Priestnal.

The Saints’ third goal seemed to break the Millers’ resistance and it was soon one-way traffic as the visitors went for the jugular driven forward by star centre backs Dominic McGreevy and Karl Clark.

Gorman fired narrowly wide after being teed up by Weir, before a scuffed clearance by Christian let in Steven Priestnal.

With the goal at his mercy the hard-working Gazz Logan did well to deny him on the line with a fine block, Christian recovering to repel the in-form Whitley’s follow up.

The Mills’ goal’s charmed life was soon broken with two goals in three minutes midway through the second half effectively wrapping up the points.

A Gorman corner from the left was headed back across goal by Whitley, Weir adding the telling touch to take the score to 1-4.

A trademark finish by Steven Priestnal made it 1-5 in the Bowl side’s favour as the away team continued to cut loose.

Two goals in the encounter’s last eight minutes added further sheen to the scoreline. Priestnal nabbed his second of the match after being teed up by his younger sibling Marc, before Whitley completed a deserved hat-trick with another assured finish three minutes from time.

Team check

Union Mills: Danny Christian, James Cannell (Will Miller 46m), Richie Cannell (Alex Redfearn 49m), Craig Ennett, Chris Kelly, Stephen Halsall, David Clark, Ronan McDonnell, Gazz Logan, Steven Quine (Nuno Sousa 46), Matthew Caine.

St Mary’s: Geoff Crennell, Connor Gorman, Tony Cain (Nathan Halsall 85m), Dominic McGreevy, Karl Clark, Martin Reilly (Nathan Cooil 79m), Tom Weir, James Murphy (Cian Geoghegan 75m), Steven Priestnal, Marc Priestnal, Stephen Whitley.

Referee: Scott Campion

Man of the Match: Whitley (St Mary’s)

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