Late Watson strike splits the points in local derby


Comber Rec Ladies Reserves  2      

Ards Rangers FC Women  2

Dennis S Nash reports from the Billy Neill Playing Fields

WITH just two minutes left to play in the big NIWFA Division 5 battle between Comber Rec Ladies Reserves and Ards Rangers FC Women last Thursday evening, the Rangers looked on course to claiming three points.

However, a late strike from distance by the highly-impressive Leanne Watson beat Macy Taylor to rescue a point for the visitors – a result which was probably a fitting outcome for the season’s second big local derby of the season.

Of all the eight sections currently operating under the auspices of the Northern Ireland Women’s Football Association, Division 5 houses two local sides and thereby adds an extra layer of interest when the League programme brings round meetings of the two.

Back on April 21, when the Ards Rangers side and their Comber Rec counterparts last met, three first-half goals had sealed the points for the Drome Park side, so last week’s encounter had an extra helping of importance as Carys Woods kicked the game off.

The heavy rain which we had unfortunately experienced on our last two visits to the Billy Neill complex were not in situ on this occasion, but a cold wind was ripping its way across the playing area and making the role of both player and spectator somewhat trying.

Both teams skirted into attacking moves and, within four minutes, the deadlock had been broken with an opening goal from Shannon McCullough, who incidentally had also been the first goalscorer in the previous game in Newtownards.

From the restart, both Carys Woods and Rebecca Cowan made sweeping advances on the Comber right wing and, with Margaret Hamilton looking eager down the left for Rangers, there was plenty of suggestion that a second score could be imminent.

True to expectation, the game was level after 11 minutes when Isabella Emerson locked the teams together. Goals were the order of the day in the game’s opening phase and just before the quarter-hour mark, Billie Jest pushed the visitors back into the lead from another Margaret Hamilton cross.

Rebecca Heron was still working hard down the right flank for Comber and Danielle Cash was pushing the visitors forward with tireless effort in midfield as the game continued with forward advances coming at both ends.

As half-time neared, Hamilton crossed well and McCullough’s effort was blocked by Amy Glass with Rangers arriving at the interval holding a slender advantage.

Isabella Emerson registered an early shot on target for Comber in the second period while, at the other end, Shannon McCullough and Rebecca Kirk continued to carry a threat.

The game retained a competitive balance with Leanne Watson working hard in the Comber attack and Kim Simpson driving Rangers forward from midfield. By the latter stages, Comber had four under-16s on the field, a situation which completely demonstrated the Park Way side’s pathway approach.

With time ebbing away, Leanne Watson blasted her name into the headlines – and the points were shared in the second big derby game of the season.



Comber Rec Ladies Reserves: Amy Glass, Isabella Emerson, Leanne Watson, Lorna McGrady (C), Jodie McMullan, Laura Bryan, Rebecca Heron, Abigail Macartney, Carys Woods, Jessica Rainey, Melissa Burns.

Substitutes: Ellie Bowman, Olivia Smyth, Nicola Elliott, Anna Kieran, Freya Johnston, Katie Migan.

Officials: Winston Kerr and Paul Dempster


Ards Rangers FC Women: Macy Taylor, Neve Taylor, Teagan Lawson, Shannon McCullough, Rebecca Kirk, Linda Mitchell, Rebecca Taylor (C), Billie Jest, Kim Simpson, Margaret Hamilton, Danielle Cash.

Substitutes: Catherine Le Guiniec, Kenzal McCurry, Harriet Eadie, Victoria McAvoy.

Officials, Jordan Barnett, Patricia McCullough, Gareth McCullough, Gordon Kenny, Philip Simpson.



Comber Rec Ladies Reserves

Comber Rec Ladies were first introduced to the local scene away back in 2012, with Winston Kerr the driving force behind the initiative.

Over the following half-dozen seasons, Kerr guided the team to the Division 3 title in 2014, the South 1 Championship in 2017 and the NIWFA Championship crown in 2018.

Comber Rec Ladies have grown and prospered since those early days and the club currently have football opportunities for girls of all abilities from six years plus.


Ards Rangers FC Women

The Drome Park history can be taken back to the late 1940s and the Ards Rangers club has been well involved in and responsible for many of the improvements, developments and expansions down through the years since then.

Youth football was embraced many years ago and in April this year, women’s teams started to tackle competitive football.

With the enthusiasm and drive of folk like Patricia McCullough, the concept of female football at Drome Park will be vibrant, spirited and meaningful.

Recently, club members Neve, Vicky and Clare successfully completed their Irish Football Association National Coaching Certificates.



Gordon McEwan handled the game with competence and proficiency throughout and brought the stamp of authority, tempered by common sense, at all times.


The Northern Ireland Women’s Football Association (NIWFA), which is the governing body of women’s football in Northern Ireland, was founded in 1977.

In 1993 the NIWFA became affiliated with the Irish Football Association (IFA) but retained sole control of women’s football in Northern Ireland.

Five years later, the NIWFA became fully integrated with the IFA with the NIWFA retaining its separate identity. Since 2001, it has had a representative on the IFA Council.

This agreement also allowed the NIWFA to continue playing their league matches on Sundays instead of joining the IFA, who had banned Sunday football until 2008.


Jonathan Coates was on photography duties for the Chronicle at the Billy Neill Playing Fields.



I am indeed deeply indebted to team attendants from both camps for their assistance and cooperation.

Winston Kerr had all the information and match details to hand for me and the work of Patricia McCullough certainly allowed me the entire scope and space for the operational responsibilities of Feature Match.