(Match report courtesy of senior team sponsors Fraser Homes)
Any thoughts St. Mary’s had of consolidating their position at the top of the NI Amateur League 2C division were blasted away in a scintillating opening 15 minutes at the Valley Leisure Centre.
Darragh Brownlee scored a terrific first half hat-trick and Matty McNally added the other two goals as both strikers made it five goals each as the team made it a total of 13 strikes in the past two games.
And although he didn’t get on the scoresheet, the third front man Sean Irwin also deserves enormous credit for his incredible work rate closing down the home defence and unsettling them from start to finish.
The visitors were one goal to the good after less than a minute when Paddy McEvoy headed on a throw in into the box and the ball fell to Brownlee who cooly slotted home the opener.
It was two after nine minutes when a great pass by the outstanding Kealan Devlin found Brownlee on the end of the box. He took the ball out of the air with the outside of his right foot and knocked the ball over the goalkeeper with a sensational chip.
And four minutes later it was three when Fergus McBride, who once again provided the launch pad for this terrific performance by dominating midfield along with Michael Deeny, released McNally on the left and he fired in a powerful shot that sailed into the net off the underside of the cross bar.
St Mary’s pulled one back on 16 minutes as a result of the only piece of poor play in an otherwise perfect performance but four minutes later Colts restored their three goal advantage when that man Brownlee completed his hat trick with yet another chip, this time with his left foot for his eighth goal of the season.
After that blistering start the game settled down but with Devlin and Rory McDonnell and the superb Joe Sweeney in great form St Mary’s rarely troubled Colts and when they did goalkeeper John Mulholland was on hand to clear any danger.
Colts had opportunities to make it five before the break notably when Deeny and Irwin combined on 35 minutes to find McNally who crashed yet another chipped shot against the bar. The bar again came to the rescue when a defender sliced a clearance against it on 41 mins and Irwin nearly had the goal his performance richly deserved on half time when he had a shot saved.
St Mary’s came out aggressively in the second half but Colts stood up to their tough approach, particularly Paul Maguire, who was like a warrior and had an outstanding second half, not backing down once despite some provocative and intimidating behaviour.
Colts brought on Niall McArdle early in the second half and his all action performance again unsettled the home midfield while Jonny Henry and Ciaran Sherry were also introduced and both made a significant contribution.
Colts made it five on 66 minutes when a defender tried to pass back to his goalkeeper under intense pressure from the hard working McEvoy and the quicksilver McNally latched on to the ball and rounded the keeper before slotting home from a tight angle for his 11th of the season in 11 games, a great return.
Sherry then went close in the latter stages when he superbly sidestepped a defender and fired a great shot which was heading for the top corner but the goalkeeper pulled off a good save.
This performance was as good as it gets, full of skill, invention, controlled aggression and passion and moved Colts back into the top four. With only a small number of points separating the top teams it really is all to play for in this title race.
Colts: Mulholland, Sweeney, Maguire, McDonnell, Devlin, McBride, McEvoy (Sherry), Deeny (McArdle), Irwin (Henry), McNally, Brownlee
After-match refreshments generously provided by our friends at the Parador Inn, Ormeau Road.