Photos - Jordan Connolly - @Life Through A Lens NI

Bangor’s match-winning hero Adam Neale admits he pinpointed how he could hit where it hurts long before he landed the ultimately decisive blow on Harland and Wolff Welders last weekend.

Having that key knowledge in his head on where the hosts’ weaknesses were made all the difference as the striker was sprung from the bench and wasted no time in leaving a mark, scoring with his very first touch when he chipped Welders stopper Jack Mills following Ben Arthurs’ neat headed lay-off on 68 minutes to make it 2-1.

The sharp-shooter, who delicately notched up his ninth goal in the Playr-Fit Championship this term to add to 27 across all competitions in a blockbuster 2022/23, admits he noticed the east Belfast side had left gaps at the back and was pleased to rubber-stamp a welcome winning return after the disappointing 3-2 reversal at the hands of Dundela four days earlier.

30-year-old Neale also added that the Welders, who had top scorer Matthew Ferguson sent off 10 minutes from half-time with Tiarnan O’Connor having cancelled out a rifled opener by Seasiders loanee Conor McDermott on the quarter-hour mark, kept their defensive resolve and shape with a man reduced which required the Yellows to pick their moment to pounce.

“Someone said it in the WhatsApp group chat last week, good teams get beat once but great teams don’t get beat twice in a row, if you know what I mean,” he said.

“So, we wanted to go out there and give a response from Tuesday night and get back on track with a win and, thankfully, we were able to go and do that. The Welders sort of set up the same way as us, the three centre-backs and wing-backs and one in the hole in front of the defence, so it was tough to break them down.

“With the red card, they lost a bit of potency up top with one of their attacking players being sent off, but it didn’t really change anything defensively about their system, they were well-organised and hard to break through.

“I remember thinking to myself on the bench, they were compact but they were leaving gaps in behind, so I thought if we were going to get the next goal, those were the spaces that I’d be able to get into.

“Ben was winning a lot of headers against big (Kyle) Owens, to be fair, and I think when he got the assist for me, he got clattered a bit, so he sort of took one for the team there. I got beyond him and in behind and was able to find the space, and it was a good finish over the keeper that then goes on to be the winner.”

Saturday marked a fifth substitute appearance in a row for Neale, who last started a match in the Irish Cup Fifth Round joust with Dergview on January 6.

The Ballynahinch man says he has had conversations with manager Lee Feeney about how his impact can be maximised, and a series of high-energy displays as a super sub suggest a swimming adaptation for a player who has found a stop-start flow to his goals this season.

He praised the competitive nature of the squad and believes every player understands their part in the equation, proudly contributing to a run of just one defeat in 13 league outings.

“Those are the sort of conversations I’ve been having with Lee throughout the season.

"You know, before this season, across my whole career, I’d always been used to being a regular starter, but the goals haven’t really been flowing for me this season.

“So, it’s been a case of finding new ways to get the best out of me and the team overall, and Lee and I have sort of had discussions on that and I’ve been coming off the bench recently.

“As a sub, you’re always kind of playing with a point to prove, and everyone’s fired up when they’re coming off the bench.

“Sometimes you’re coming on and you’re being asked to defend, sometimes you’re coming on and you’re trying to score goals.

“I think we’ve got a really good squad, and it’s competitive, everyone’s fighting for places and it’s up to everyone to contribute with goals and assists in the squad.

“I think Lee has a lot of different attributes that he can call upon and who can make a difference, and it offers something a bit different to what’s already there.

“Sometimes it can take the other team by surprise, but you’re expected to go out there and work hard and make an impact on the game.

“It’s a squad effort, there’s a great buzz around the squad and we’re working together to get results, and it’s not a role I’ve been in much in my career before but I want to help the team and it’s sort of brought a new side out of me.”

Adam Neale

by Lewis Bennett (Posted: Sunday, 11th February 2024)