Renwick 1 Sandmount FC 2

24 Sep

A new season began on Wednesday for Renwick, and with many former greats having moved on to greener pastures, it was an unfamiliar XI which lined up on Pitch 7 at the Dub for this glamour friendly. Looking resplendent in his bright orange keeper kit, new manager James McCullough rang the changes, giving Luke Campbell and Ali McCollum their Renwick debuts. Captain Ben Hanna and Chris Carson found themselves in an unfamiliar pairing at the centre of the defence, with Richard McKelvey at right back. However the centre of midfield had the reassuring presence of Andy McKelvey, who was soon joined by Gavin Blackwell, once he had conveyed Joel Cromie to the match from Central Station. Michael Hawthorne and Phil Aicken initially joined McKelvey in a midfield trio, with Robert Cromie and Ali Rolleston joining Campbell in making up the front three.

As with many new-look teams, Renwick started slowly, and were soon behind. Hanna and Carson were both caught out by a through ball and the Sandmount forward was left with a simple finish past the onrushing McCullough. Sandmount were in the ascendency and one soon became two, with a cheap freekick been given away on the edge of the box. There was no doubting the quality of the strike though, a perfectly placed curler into the top corner. With Cromie junior and Taxiwell now raring to go, Rolleston and Campbell were replaced and these substitutes seemed to revitalise Renwick. Within 5 minutes they had pulled a goal back, Blackwell and Cromie senior exchanging a series of neat passes before the Donegal man’s speculative 30-yard drive beat the keeper and dipped under the crossbar. Renwick spent the remainder of the first half pressing for an equaliser, but bar a few half chances there was little action of note.

Assistwell

The goal

McCullough changed things at HT, switching to a 4-4-2 with the brothers Cromie up front, and Campbell and R. McKelvey traded places at full back. For the majority of the second period, Renwick were well on top, owing largely to the driving midfield play of Blackwell and A. McKelvey. Both Cromies had chances aplenty as they combined well, but both were guilty of profligacy on several occasions. As the half drew on, Renwick couldn’t maintain their frantic tempo and the match largely petered out, bar a few set pieces towards the end. Sandmount rarely threatened in the second half but were more than combative and showed that they could have a good season ahead in the Belfast Superleague.

There were plenty of positives to draw from the performance despite the disappointing defeat. Despite a shaky start, the new centre-back pairing showed definite promise, and sheer volume of chances created offers hope for the rest of the campaign. Add to that the prospect of further new faces becoming available over the next few weeks and things are still looking rosy for the Elmwood outfit at the dawn of a campaign, perhaps even a new era.

Man of the match: Chris Carson – grew quickly into his new role at the heart of the defence, and put in an excellent performance despite early shakiness.

Renwick: McCullough; R McKelvey, Hanna, Carson, McCollum; Hawthorne, A McKelvey, Aicken; Campbell, R Cromie, Rolleston. Subs: J Cromie, Blackwell

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