Ards laboured past third-tier Newington 3-2 in the Second Round of the League Cup.
The Red & Blues coasted into a 3-0 lead with a trio of goals in the opening 25 minutes, with Jonah Mitchell scoring twice. But the brave Belfast side battled back to come within a whisker of forcing extra-time, with goals from Jonathan Gowdy and Robert McVarnock giving the Premiership side a fright at Clandeboye Park.
Newington made a bright start to the cup tie, but they found themselves a goal behind after just three minutes. Ards winger Jonny Frazer’s dangerous cross was handled by Chris McFall, leaving referee Ben McMaster no choice but to award a penalty kick.
Michael McLellan punished McFall’s careless error by side-footing the spot-kick beyond the reach of Connor Archer.
It was 2-0 in the 22nd minute. The lively Frazer burst down the right-flank before pulling the ball across goal, where teenager Jonah Mitchell was on hand to score from close range.
Mitchell scored his second of the night two minutes and this time it was a much more spectacular effort. The young forward hit a sweet half-volley from inside the area, that gave Archer no chance.
Ards pushed for a four-goal before the break with Frazer and Mitchell giving the Steel & Sons Cup holders all sorts of problems.
However, it was Newington who found the net on the stroke of half-time. Midfielder Jonathan Gowdy headed across home from six-yards, placing the ball beyond the reach of goalkeeper Jason Mooney.
Mooney was called into action in the 53rd minute. He made a superb save from a Padraig Scollay back post header. It was Mooney’s first game for Ards since leaving the club in 2008.
Newington had another chance in the 56th minute when Robert McVarnock flashed a shot just past the post.
Newington scored another 63rd minute. The lively McVarnock got on to the end of a smart through ball and poked it past Mooney.
Newington pushed for an equaliser, but the Ards defence held firm. The Red & Blues did have a chance to add another when substitute David McAllister hit the foot of the post in the 65th minute.
Conall Burns had a golden opportunity to equalise in the 89th minute. A long throw into the Ards area was flicked on, but Burns was unable to convert at the back post with the goal at his mercy.
Ards did enough to book their place in the last 16, but after a bright start they struggled through the second half.
Ards: Mooney; Kerr, Taylor, Byers, Nelson; Mitchell, J. Kelly, Cherry (48 Tommons), E. McAllister; Frazer (59 D. McAllister), McLellan (65 M. Kelly)
Subs Not Used: Johnston, Brown, McAleenan, McKenna
Newington: Archer, McFall, R. Gowdy, Pierce, Bradley, Derry, Burns, J. Gowdy (84 McAuley), McVarnock (88 Gilgunn), Donnelly, Scollay (60 Logan)
Subs Not Used: McIlhone, Begley, Taggart