We have hit the midway point of the season, with The Writers sitting in fourth place. It was a successful period for OTT in the last article, with the team turning around their form to go five matches unbeaten.
The first game of the article is the first of a doubleheader against the PSNI, with the first match being a league fixture, followed by the fifth round of the Irish Cup. I fielded an unchanged side for the league fixture with The Writers coming away as 4-0 winners. Goals came from Diarmuid Lavery, Tarek Arafa and a brace from Adam Brown.
Before the Irish Cup fixture against PSNI, there have been rumours circulating of Chris Darwen looking to sell OTT FC in order to find another challenge elsewhere. I think we will have to watch this space to see what happens. Luke McKee has also left OTT FC for Dromara, he was an influential player for us last season but has seen game time limited lately. I will, however, be looking to bring in a replacement for McKee.
After 34 minutes Michael McQuitty headed PSNI into the lead, with them looking a changed side from the 4-0 defeat against OTT a week ago. That was the only real action of the opening 45 minutes. Jake Moore then tapped in the second for the PSNI, with OTT’s cup run hanging in the balance. After a mistake from Ray Kelly, Jake Moore got his second of the match. Paul Smith gave The Writers hope with 12 minutes to play making it 3-1, but two minutes later Eoghan Byrne scored a wonder goal for the PSNI, putting the game to bed. As the referee’s whistle went, the cup run of OTT FC was over. I just do not know how the exact same team went from winning 4-0 one week to losing 4-1 the next against the same team.
Ruairi Boorman returns to OTT FC from Woodvale after leaving The Writers last season for Carrick. He will act as a replacement form Luke McKee unless I can get a better player through the door at the Ronnie Dog Arena.
There were two more matches in January, with only six matches remaining in the campaign. We currently sit in third place, nine points behind Newington who are our next opponents, and ten points behind Queen’s University. Promotion isn’t out of the equation just yet but to be in this position with the inconsistent performances so far this season I am really pleased.
The game against Newington was a struggle early on, with Newington taking the lead after only 90 seconds, obviously the devastating cup exit is having an effect on the player’s confidence. That was the only goal of the game at Seaview, all but putting an end to the promotion hopes of OTT FC.
The game against Tobermore United would hopefully be the game in which The Writers can get back to their winning ways. Paul Smith and Nathan Best came into the starting XI ahead of Rory Patterson and Josh Boyd to add a bit of freshness to the struggling squad. After ten minutes Peter Duffin put Tobermore into the lead, showing that maybe some upgrades in defence are needed ahead of next season. Jordan Thompson headed Tobermore into a 2-0 lead with just over twenty minutes to play, handing OTT FC yet another defeat, or did they. With ten minutes left to play Lavery scored one of the best goals that OTT FC has ever seen with a rocket from way outside the box, was their enough time left to get an equaliser? Yes! With only two minutes left to play Nathan Best got on the end of a Kyle Mackie cross to make the score 2-2. Could we go on to win the match now? No, that was a step too far but I was very impressed with how we turned the game around with so little time left.
Nigel Prentice left the club on transfer deadline day to join Belfast Celtic. He didn’t really get much game time for the club but always put in a solid performance when he did put on the green shirt. Michael McKenna also left the club to join Ballinamallard United. He was a key player for us last season but struggled to adapt to the higher division and ultimately was edged out of the starting XI by Shane Boyle.
The OTT FC reserve team have really impressed this season, currently they sit one point behind top spot in the NIFL Championship/PIL Development League, they are definitely in with a shout of winning the title.
I was also offered an interview with Crusaders about taking over from Paul Muir who has been caretaker manager since Stephen Baxter left at the end of 2019. I declined the interview however as I obviously don’t want to leave OTT FC, but it’s nice to know that a Premiership side thinks of me highly.
There were two matches in February, and these went as follows:
vs Banbridge (A) 1-5 – Banbridge Goals: Anderson 22’ OTT Goals: Smyth 39’, Brown 47’ 91’, Boyle 67’ Hutchinson 69’.
vs Limavady (A) 1-0 – Limavady Goal: McCarron 77’
I was offered a new contract at OTT FC, so I guess that means there will be at least another season for this series. Chris will be paying me £80 a week with the aim to finish mid-table next season in the Premier Intermediate League.
Before the final two matches of the season there was a 42-day gap, so I arranged two friendlies during this time, and I let my assistant manager Cameron Moore take these went as follows:
vs Queen’s University (H) – 1-3 OTT Goal: Wilson 91’ Queen’s Goals: Young 44’, 48’ Briers 49’.
vs Strabane Athletic (A) – 2-1 Strabane Goals: Mooney 65’, 80’, OTT Goal: Boyd 29’
Rory Patterson has started to feel unhappy at the club, similar to what happened last season. I decided it was best to drop him from the starting XI after he missed two training sessions in the previous few weeks.
The penultimate game of the season was against Armagh, with the first half being a stalemate. With around seven minutes left in the match Oisin Smyth put The Writers into the lead, with that being the only goal of the game.
Before the final game of the season I thought I would give Cameron another go as manager and this time he got a 2-1 result against Banbridge with goals for OTT coming from Oisin Smyth and Paul Smith. Banbridge’s goal came through Michael Allison.
The final game of the season was against Lisburn Distillery and it was a real struggle. Aaron Keenan put Distillery into the lead after 42 minutes, followed by Ryan Morrow putting them 2-0 in the 61st minute. Jake Richardson then got sent off for The Writers in the 73rd minute before Michael O’Hanlon put Distillery 3-0 up. Tarek Arafa then scored an own goal to put Lisburn 4-0 up, not the best way to end the season.
So that brings to an end season two of this journey to the Premiership with OTT FC. We couldn’t make it two promotions in a row, but we are definitely in a good position to push further up the table next season, as we finished in sixth after the difficult spell of late.
Queen’s University won the league and will, therefore, return to the Championship next season, replacing Dundela. Portadown will be playing Premiership football next season as they won the Championship, replacing the relegated Carrick Rangers.
The supporters of OTT FC have also added three players to the ‘Best Eleven’ in the short history of the club. Shane Boyle, Dean Smyth and Stephen Hamill have been added.
In real life, Oisin Smyth is showing his talent in the Irish Premiership, but we are lucky to have him as a permanent fixture at the Ronnie Dog Arena after making his loan deal permanent at the end of last season. He cleaned up at the End of Season Awards and hopefully he can help drive us forward next season.