Day to forget for Athletic.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

STRABANE Athletic conceded three goals in the last fifteen minutes to exit the Tennant's Irish Cup at the second round hurdle away to Newcastle FC.


Having been drawn to play at home against Newcastle, Strabane's nominated ground of Melvin Park was not available due to renovations, so the game was switched to Co. Down.

Athletic though were under the impression that they were permitted to change the tie to Spamount which had been passed as suitable to facilitate the game, but one day before the match the IFA insisted that the venue must be changed. According to IFA rules, if the originally nominated pitch is not available then the match must be played at the home of the away team.

So with home advantage lost, Strabane had to organise a 230 mile round trip at short notice, the team were also without the playing services of at least one player due to work commitments.

The game was played where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea but the picturesque setting certainly wasn't matched by the quality of football on display. The bounce of the ball was unpredictable on a fairly hard, bumpy pitch but the standard of play from both sides still left a lot to be desired.

The first twenty minutes was a litany of misplaced and overhit passes and this was to be a feature of the entire game.

After a few minor threats at both ends comfortably dealt with by the keepers, Strabane did manage to to produce a top quality moment. Good work in the box by Aaron Porter allowed Conal Crawford to tee up Kyle Harte for a superb shot from outside the box into the roof of the net.

Having established ascendancy the scene was certainly set for Athletic to go on and win the tie and for the rest of the half it looked as though they would do just that. Conor Carlin drew a diving save from the keeper and there were decent efforts from Aaron Porter and Gary Henderson.

With Strabane failing to capitalise the home team created a few opportunities of their own and local keeper Ruairi McElroy was called upon to deal with a couple of situations. The half ended with McElroy parrying a free kick awarded for a foul just outside the box.

In the second half Strabane were still comfortable and had half chances to extend their lead. Christy Gallagher came forward from defence to finish off one of the better passing moves with a shot that was wide. Aaron Porter's low cross just evaded Conor Carlin before Kyle Harte went on a fine cross field run and tried a shot which was turned around the post by the home keeper.

Harte then played a nice lob over the defence but Porter was just beaten to the ball by the Newcastle net minder.

Athletic then suffered a nightmare last fifteen minutes, beginning when Sean Og Kelly equalised with a far post finish. Shortly afterwards a free kick into the box broke to Dessy McCartan who gave Newcastle the lead from close range. Strabane's misery was complete in injury time, when substitute Chris Maginn was one on one with McElroy and finished well for a 3-1 victory.

Athletic will want to get this one out of their system as soon as possible with a first League match away to Oxford Utd Stars this Saturday at the Templemore Sports Complex, Derry.

Kick off is 2pm.

SAFC: Ruairi McElroy; Michael Logue; Cal Ryan; Richie Graham; Christy Gallagher; Gary Henderson; Conal Crawford; Aaron Porter; Conor Carlin; Kyle Harte; Ronan McBrearty.

SUBS: Eamon Ferguson; Aodhan Doherty; Tom Carlin; Shane Brennan


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