JASON McGrinder bagged a sparkling hat-trick of goals as Strabane Athletic ran out comfortable winners in Saturday’s North Tyrone derby clash at Melvin Park.
McGrinder netted twice in the first half to leave Athletic deservedly 2-0 up at the break and completed his impressive three-hit from the penalty spot in the dying embers of the game just after Lee Warnock had given the visitors late hope with a goal 10 minutes from time.
Warnock’s goal apart, Nigel Boyd’s side, without ace marksman Robbie Godfrey, rarely threatened, and it was the champions who maintained their winning start to the new season following last week’s rout against Trojans.
Ardstraw will be disappointed that they didn’t bring their A game to the party, although it was the Newtownstewart-based outfit which shaded the verdict in the opening exchanges without really testing home net-minder Tom McDermott.
In fact, it was the home side which threatened first with Aodhan Doherty cutting in from the left to send a left-footed shot a foot above Andrew Gailey’s crossbar from 12 yards.
In response Conrad Kee dashed in from the left at the opposite end but his shot from an acute angle was parried by McDermott for a defender to complete the clearance.
Shortly afterwards Sammy McKelvey, who netted twice in the opening day win against Newtown, fizzed a shot over from 20 yards but by then Strabane had assumed an element of control.
Warner Mullen headed a Doherty cross straight at Gailey and the same player side-footed wide after Aaron Porter had carved apart the visiting defence in the wake of a poor clearance by Gailey.
Moments later Porter again teed up Mullen but the striker was left cursing his luck when Warnock cleared his shot off the line.
The Ardstraw rearguard was however coming under increasing scrutiny and on 23 minutes the hosts broke the deadlock.
Conor Carlin dropped deep and turned his marker before ushering McGrinder in on the right with a perfectly-weighted through ball and the striker took one touch before firing a rising shot past Gailey.
Ardstraw almost replied immediately when midfielder Jamie Adams beat his man to send Kee in on the left but as the attacker was poised to pull the trigger the ball was nicked off his toe by the back-tracking Stephen Cairns. Moments later McKelvey arrowed a 20-yard free kick past McDermott’s right upright before McGrinder grabbed his second of the afternoon.
That goal owed everything to Doherty, who after excellent play on the left, picked out McGrinder with a pinpoint cross and the attacker nodded into an empty net at the back post.
In comparison to the opening 45 minutes, the second was distinctly low key and uneventful until the final moments.
Mullen failed to trouble Gailey with a 20-yard shot after he had picked the pocket of Ashley Lowry on the left.
At the other end Adam Clarke, a replacement for the injured Kee, muscled his way through on the right to pull the ball back to William Donaghy who miscued just eight yards out.
The visitors were making more of a fist of things and with just 10 minutes left Warnock threw Ardstraw a lifeline when heading home from a corner.
Ardstraw’s joy was short-lived and when Warnock hauled down McGrinder referee Paul Douglas pointed to the spot and the striker dusted himself down to fire home the resultant spot-kick to secure the points.
McDermott; McMenamin; Forbes; Cairns (Ferry 75); McBrearty; Bishop; Doherty; Porter; Carlin (Brennan 46); Mullen; McGrinder.
Subs not used: Ryan; Taylor; O’Hagan.
Gailey; Gibson; Boyd; Warnock; Robinson; Lowry; Donaghy; Adams; Rihane (Russell 73); Kee (Clarke 55); McKelvey (Campbell 62).
Strabane and Ardstraw are both away in Intermediate Cup action this coming Saturday at Iveagh Utd and Cookstown Youth respectively (kick-off 1.30pm).