Westport United 4
Hoban, 62, 67; O’Malley, 70, 83
WESTPORT United proved they are not out of the title race just yet, as they produced a strong second half display to record their fifth straight league victory at the expense of a lack-lustre Manulla in damp and miserable conditions on Saturday evening last.
A brace from David Hoban and a similar feat by substitute Vinny O’Malley gave Westport a much-needed three points in their pursuit of Castlebar Celtic and inflict revenge on Paul Large’s side that beat the ‘covies’ back in May.
United began this encounter well and bossed possession around the midfield area, while the tricky skill of winger David Cameron was giving the Manulla defence plenty of food for thought. The first real chance fell to Gerry McLoughlin whose low header produced a good stop from Manulla ‘keeper Colin Walsh.
The homeside struggled to cope with the Westport attack and on 30 minutes Manulla winger Matty Nolan cleared Pat Fitzgerald’s effort off the line.
Manulla’s first real chance came when Nolan beat Westport full back Kevin Joyce to the ball but his shot was well held by United ‘keeper Gary Cunningham.
At the other end Westport had a glorious chance to go ahead when Dave Hoban released his strike partner in on goal, but Walsh produced a top-draw save to deny Keegan who has been in a rich vein of form recently.
McLoughlin then nearly caught out Walsh with a cross-cum-shot that just evaded the crossbar.
Manulla playing against tough weather elements in the second half started brightly, and striker Enda McGahan tried to test Cunningham from long range but his shot crept narrowly over the crossbar.
It wasn’t long until Westport regained their foothold in the game when Fitzgerald came close with a near post effort before Dave Horkan tested Walsh with a firm downward header at the back post.
Then came the game’s turning point. The score was at 0-0 when Manulla’s Seamus Staunton appeared to have been fouled by O’Malley in the box but referee Martin Regan waved away the claims much to the home side’s frustration.
It wasn’t long after that incident when Westport finally broke the deadlock. On 62 minutes a Cameron free kick found the head of Hoban and the Westport front man made no mistake to give his side a deserved lead.
Three minutes later the game was effectively over as a contest when Hoban set up Keegan down the right hand side. Johnny Griffin slid in but caught Keegan, and referee Regan gave the penalty. Hoban stepped up and beat Walsh on his right hand side, although the Manulla ‘keeper did get a hand on it, United doubled their lead.
Keegan then set up Fitzgerald and his cross fizzed just wide. However, moments later the away side got a third on 70 minutes when Walsh failed to gather Horkan’s long range effort. Keegan pounced on the rebound but he hit the post before substitute Vinny O’Malley was on hand to give his side a three-goal advantage.
United weren’t finished with the goals yet however, and O’Malley scored his second after a terrific cross by substitute Johnny Smith found the striker’s head and he made no mistake as Westport wrapped up an impressive second half display, with a potential title decider down for decision next Sunday when Westport take on league leaders Castlebar Celtic at the Sports Park.
C Walsh, J Griffin, J Daly, D Gallagher, P Canavan, S Staunton, M Nolan, G Durcan, E McGahan, R Clarke, M Mongan.
Subs used: M Byrne for Mongan, C McGlade for Griffin, B Cuffe for McGahan.
G Cunningham, A O’Malley, K Joyce, J Lawless, D Horkan, D Cameron, G McLoughlin, D Browne, P Fitzgerald, D Hoban. P Keegan.
Subs used: V O’Malley for Hoban, J Smith for Lawless, L Staunton for Cameron.
Referee: M Regan