Dromara entertained Ards Rangers in the fourth round of the Clarence Cup on Saturday and came away with a well-earned 2-1 win against the Border Cup champions and unbeaten Premier League leaders.
Also, without the influential captain Drake and young McElroy in midfield, manager Gerard McMahon had to draft in two 16 year olds to his bench.
The game started off at a very high tempo with both teams probing and moving the ball well with some slick sharp passing.
The young home side were working hard and closing the very talented Ards side down, and they had the first opportunity of the game when the energetic Beckett broke from midfield but the keeper was quick off his line to thwart the danger.
Ards had their first chance when Rutherford the ex-Dromara centre forward had a header which was just wide of the target.
Dromara were growing into the game and McDonald on the right was causing problems with his power and pace for the visitors backline.
The Ards side with so many talented players in their ranks had a good opportunity when a cross shot from the right hand side saw the ever improving keeper O’Hare get a strong hand and flick away from danger.
But to the home support delight a great move down the right with Beckett again getting on the end of a good ball from Nathan Hamilton beat his marker with a great turn inside and play a pinpoint ball into the box for the in-form Gerard Rooney to smash home into the roof of the net.
This was a great reward for the young home side who had matched the strong Ards side and went in a goal to the good at the break.
The second half saw the visitors coming out fired up, but the backline line of Nathan Hamilton, McNeil, Doyle and captain for the day Mcardle in top form denied any sight on O’hares goal.
In midfield, the trio of Gregg, Lindsay and Beckett again were outstanding with so much pace, skill and workrate which surprised the away team.
But with the visitors always going to be dangerous at set plays with their height, they had three corners in succession 15 minutes into the second period, and from the last one the ball was only partially cleared and a thumping drive flew into the top right hand corner.
This could have seen the home sid’es heads drop but they kicked on and Coady came on on the left hand side to replace Kyle Hamilton who had put in a good shift to support the impressive Coleman Doyle who has came on leaps and bounds under McMahon’s coaching.
They still kept believing they could win the game and with 20 minutes left on the clock, some great play from Rooney saw him turn his marker just inside their half and beat a second defender and then deliver a great cross field ball into the path of McDonald on the right. He hit a good shot form around 18 yards which the Ards keeper parried, but credit to the young wide man he followed up his effort to slot home.
Now the away side would have to really go for it but one thing that manager McMahon and the coaching staff have installed in the team of late is to be hard to break down, and the whole team defended as a unit.
They were able to see the game out and 16 year olds Kerr and Adam Gregg, who joined his brother Johnny on the pitch for a proud moment for his family, came on to give their all for the cause.
Late on, the away side had a man dismissed for a second yellow, but the Dromara club would like to send their best wishes to the away teams centre back who sustained a facial injury in an arial clash and hope he makes a speedy recovery.
The home side are now into the quarter-finals with a home draw to Lower Shankhill which will be a tough game but it is an extra bonus for the club with still finishing as high up the league as possible as their main priority.