CORINTHIANS returned to the top half of the Canada Life Premier League table after recording a hard-fought victory over Ramsey at Ballafletcher on Saturday afternoon.
The Whites had to overcome the spirited challenge of the northerners before goals from Lewis Griffiths, Matthew Palmer and Blane Slattery earned Jonny McDowell’s men a 3-2 win and the points on offer.
Of those five goals, only one was scored in the first half as the sides cancelled each other out during a keen midfield battle. It was the hosts, however, who created the greater number of chances in the opening 45, with Jamie Stoy, Slattery and Griffiths all linking up well in the final third of the pitch.
Despite the lion’s share of the chances and some neat football, though, Corinthians almost fell behind in the 19th minute after conceding possession in their own half and the impressive Kris Halsall produced a delightful cross into the box where Matt Montgomery rose highest to nod a powerful header goalwards, but Joe Kelly somehow diverted the ball with an outstretched foot.
As Ramsey grew in confidence as the half wore on they went even closer shortly after the half-hour mark when again Halsall unlocked the Whites’ defence with a perfect ball through to Michael Fernandes but the forward’s lobbed effort drifted agonisingly wide.
The match came to life five minutes before the break when tensions threatened to boil over when Slattery went in late on Ramsey shot-stopper Andy Perry and was booked for his troubles.
And just minutes later the deadlock was finally broken when Palmer’s surging run resulted in a free-kick being awarded to the hosts on the edge of the area and Stoy curled a pin-point, in-swinging cross to Griffiths who superbly directed his header past the motionless Perry into the back of the net for 1-0.
It wasn’t long before the Ballafletcher side doubled their advantage when, just minutes after the interval Griffiths surged down the right wing before cutting the ball inside to Palmer who held off one challenge before rifling a shot into the roof of the net to make it 2-0.
However, any hopes of Corinthians running away with the game were immediately snuffed out when Halsall’s excellent free-kick was superbly tipped wide by Kelly but, from the resultant corner, the keeper could only palm Chris Duggan’s flag kick into his own net.
Despite the setback, the Whites soon restored their two-goal cushion following some good build-up play when Corinthians’ skipper Darren Cain’s cross was met with a diving header from Slattery who managed to glance the ball past Perry.
The northerners should have hit back immediately but were guilty of an astonishing miss. Following a penetrating run down the right, Jamie Moffatt cut inside before firing goalwards, his effort was saved but the rebound was picked up by Fernandes who laid the ball off to Halsall who brought another fine stop out of Kelly. However, the parried shot fell straight at the feet of Moffatt but, with the goal at his mercy, the usually prolific frontman somehow contrived to blast his shot clean over the bar from point-blank range.
They weren’t too be denied in the 70th minute though, when Duggan lifted a deep cross into the Whites’ area to the back post where Halsall rose unchallenged to loop a header over Kelly and into the far corner of the net to set up a tense finale.
Although Duggan went close minutes later with a fierce effort from range, it was the hosts who came closest to netting again through Danny Gerrard who saw a low shot saved and the Whites comfortably saw out the remaining few minutes of an intriguing contest.
Corinthians: Joe Kelly, Matthew Palmer, Darren Cain (c), Chris Cannell, Cameron Lee, Sam Black, Danny Gerrard, Louis Thornton, Blane Slattery (Kane Ridings 72m), Jamie Stoy, Lewis Griffiths (Ruari Mooney 77m). Sub not used: Danny Pennigton
Ramsey: Andy Perry (c), Harry Wetherill, Jamie Arneill (Robbie Collister 65m), Lewis Qualtrough, John Roberts, Robbie Campbell, Chris Duggan, Matthew Montgomery (Barry Gaffney 71m), Jamie Moffatt, Michael Fernandes, Kris Halsall. Sub not used: Alex Yates
Referee: Tommy Crowe. Assistants: John Lovelady and Andrew Lodge
Booked: Slattery (Corinthians), Campbell (Ramsey)
Man of the Match: Griffiths - produced a lively showing on the wing for Corinthians and was instrumental in setting the Whites on their way
Match rating: HHHII