With the coronavirus pandemic disrupting sport, and in particular postponing all football in the Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, one team that will not be affecting by the disruption is Over The Turnstile FC.
After a run of mixed results in the last part of this series, OTT FC have slipped to third in the table, as well as being knocked out of the Irish Cup and the Steel & Sons Cup. In this part, I will be playing through the months of December and January, with six games over these two months.
The Northern Irish Mid Ulster Intermediate A at the beginning for December is as follows:
The first thing that had to be done in December was the draw for the third round of the Intermediate Cup. OTT FC have been drawn against Armagh City of the Bluefin Sport Premier Intermediate League, the league above the one that the Writers compete in.
The fourth-round draw was also complete, with the winners of the third-round tie against Armagh City playing either Donegal Celtic or Hanover.
The first game of December was against Laurelvale in the league, with two changes to the starting XI. Jake Richardson has been suspended, with Aaron Casey coming into the team at right-back. Darragh Byrne has also been replaced on the left-wing by Plamen Kolev. Matthew Taylor gave OTT FC the lead in the fourth minute before Kylie Mackie made it 2-0 in the seventh minute. Rory Patterson continued his impressive goal-scoring form, making it 3-0 in the 14th minute. Simon Foster pulled one back for the hosts in the 25th minute, before Tarek Arafa restored the three-goal lead just before half time. At the start of the second half, Stefan Kemp pulled another goal back for the hosts, making it 4-2 to OTT FC. Arafa then got his second of the game to extend OTT FC’s lead back to the three-goal cushion. Duncan Kemp then scored yet another goal for Laurelvale, bringing the lead down to two goals, with the game ending 5-3 to OTT FC.
Next up for the Writers was a visit from Moneyslane. The unchanged OTT FC started the game with Rory Patterson giving OTT FC the lead after only 13 minutes. Plamen Kolev doubled the Writers lead in the 43rd minute, with Oisin Smyth making it 3-0 just before the break. Micheal McKenna made it 4-0 to the hosts shortly after the break. In the 76th minute, Adam Brown got a goal back for Moneyslane.
The final game of the month was against Tandragee Rovers. I have been forced to make two changes to the starting XI. Both centre-backs have been suspended, with Arafa and McKenna being replaced by Adam Wilson and Pádraig McParland. Rovers went down to ten men with only seven minutes played, with Daniel Courtney given his marching orders. Iain Latimer gave the ten men the lead from the spot. Matthew Taylor equalised for the Writers in the 16th minute with a stunning strike from outside the box. Taylor scored yet another wonderful goal in the 20th minute, giving the Writers the lead. Plamen Kolev continued his impressive form on the left-wing, making it 3-1 to the visitors. Lee Lyons pulled one back for the visitors making it 3-2 in the 84th minute, with the game ending 3-2 to OTT FC.
The January transfer window is now open and after impressing in the match against Moneyslane, Adam Brown has agreed on a deal to join OTT FC as back-up for Kolev on the left wing. Chimney Corner midfielder Ross Clark, Ballymacash Rangers midfielder Lewis Parker. Ards midfielder Luke McKee will join the Writers at the end of the season.
Richardson makes his return to the side for the match against Rectory Rovers. Diarmuid Lavery scored the opening goal of the match in the fourth minute. This proved to be the only goal of the match, ending 1-0 to the Writers.
Tandragee Rovers left-back Daniel Courtney joins the Writers as back-up, Loughgall centre-back Craig Smith will join the youth set up at OTT FC. A number of players have left the club: Paul Glackin and Ryan Brolly have joined Bertie Peacock Youth, Connor Farrelly has joined Athlone Town, Aaron Casey has joined Cobh Ramblers and Kealan McDermott has joined Cabinteely. H&W Welders left-back Matthew Tunnah has also joined the youth set up at OTT FC.
The first match of the new year was against the league leaders Crewe United. It was the league leaders that found themselves in the lead after only seven minutes, Mark McCullough the goal scorer. Rory Patterson equalised for the visitors in the 40th minute. Plamen Kolev then put the Writers in front four minutes later, rounding out the first half. Six minutes into the second half, Terry Carson equalised for the hosts from the spot. That was the only goal of the second half, with the game ending 2-2.
After returning from suspension, Tarek Arafa and Michael McKenna return at the heart of the defence. The starting XI for the Intermediate Cup tie against Armagh City is as follows:
Shea Campbell gave Armagh City the lead after ten minutes before Adam McCallion made it 2-0 ten minutes later. Ethan Copes then lobbed Ray Kelly in the 28th minute, giving OTT FC a huge mountain to climb. Oisin Smyth pulled a goal back for the Writers on the 59th minute before Adam McCallion extended the lead for Armagh five minutes later, making to score 4-1. Rory Patterson gave the Writers hope in the 79th minute, but it wasn’t enough with the Writers exiting the cup in the third round losing 4-2.
This result brought to an end the month of January, leaving six matches remaining in the season. The league table at the end of January looks like this:
In the next part of this series, I will be playing through the months of February, March, April, and May which will bring the season to a close. OTT FC have performed well over the opening 20 league matches, exceeding my own expectations. If we continue in this way, we have every chance of lifting the title and going into the promotion playoff against the other league winners at our level. If not, we will be in a strong position to go for promotion next season, but you will have to wait and see what the future is for OTT FC.