ST GEORGE’S moved back to the top of the Canada Life Premier League after overcoming the challenge of rivals Peel at Douglas Road in style on Saturday afternoon.
With Laxey enjoying a week off, the Saints knew that a win would move them to the league summit and, despite being pegged back by the hosts in the first half, a strong showing after the break earned Geordies an emphatic 1-5 victory.
Both sides were guilty of wasting possession far too easily in the early stages of the contest with many over-ambitious passes going astray as neither team took control of the game but the Glencrutchery Road outfit almost broke the deadlock in the 14th minute when Frank Jones rose highest to meet a Ciaran McNulty corner but his header was cleared off the line.
The westerners matched their opponents for much of the early exchanges but found themselves a goal down after 20 minutes. McNulty’s long-range free-kick was well blocked by the wall but the ball fell straight to Johnny Myers and the former Peel star thumped a venomous volley towards goal which took a wicked deflection, completely wrong-footing goalkeeper Stuart Morris before nestling into the back of the net.
However, the visitors were only ahead for a matter of minutes as the Sunset City side hit back with a fine goal, Liam Harrison being released down the right wing before producing a low cross which fell to skipper Danny Bell on the edge of the area and the attacking midfielder expertly side-footed the ball past Geordies shot-stopped Grant Dawson and into the bottom right corner for 1-1.
The Saints very nearly restored their lead within seconds at the other end of the pitch when McNulty was twice denied by Morris but it was the hosts that came closest to troubling the scorers next when Bell picked up possession in the Geordies half and tried his luck from distance, only to see his effort loop up onto the crossbar via a deflection. Myers came closing to getting another goal against his old club when he headed wide from another McNulty free-kick before Calum Morrissey played Chris Bass Jr through on goal but the St George’s talisman was excellently denied by Morris.
There was no denying the visitors the next goal though and Bass Jr was again involved, playing a neat one-two with McNulty before crossing low towards Liam Cowin who, despite seeing his first effort saved, was on hand to convert the rebound into the unguarded net to give his side the lead at the break.
They almost doubled their advantage immediately after the restart when Julian Ringham charged down the left wing before laying the ball of to McNulty who cut inside and fired goalwards, but his effort was deflected onto the post and away to safety.
Andrew Quirk then wasted a glorious chance for the hosts the grab another equaliser when he was played clean through on goal by Bell but the midfielder hurried his shot and blasted over before Bell went close with a stinging drive which brought a fine save from Dawson. St George’s had strong appeals for a penalty turned down in the 57th minute when McNulty went down under a challenge inside the box but referee Ian Fisher waved play on.
A storming run out of defence from Myers saw him release Morrissey before the striker’s low shot was well held by Morris and a minute later the visitors went even closer. Peel gave possession away cheaply in midfield, allowing Bass Jr to burst forward before sending McNulty clear but the striker’s effort agonisingly rolled against the base of the left hand post and Rob Cottier was on hand to clear the rebound.
The Peel goal continued to live a charmed life minutes later when Lee Dixon fired a fine free-kick against the same post resulting in chaos inside the box but the hosts eventually cleared.
There was to be no denying the champions though, as Morrissey did well down the right and forced the Peel goalie into another save. This time, however, the rebound fell to Sam Caine who fired home the rebound.
McNulty then finally got the goals his performance deserved in the last five minutes, first latching onto Dixon’s throughball before rounding the keeper and then doing likewise after good play from Morrissey to complete the scoring.
Peel: Stuart Morris, Chris Cain (Louie Parmar 76m), Kerron Christian, Matthew Woods, Simon Cowley, Rob Cottier, Andrew Quirk, Danny Bell (c), Lee Gale, Liam Harrison (Ryan Burns 76m), Kevin Megson. Sub not used: Johnny Kelly
St George’s: Grant Dawson, Andy Bass (Robin Bates 45m), Sean Quaye (c), Johnny Myers, Julian Ringham, Sam Caine (Nick Bass 80m), Liam Cowin, Frank Jones (Lee Dixon 62m), Chris Bass Jr, Calum Morrissey, Ciaran McNulty
Referee: Ian Fisher. Assistants: Andrew Lodge and Kevan Maitland
Men of the Match: McNulty and Myers - (St George’s) - energetic and instrumental performances from the Geordies duo
Match rating: 3*