League newcomers hold Strabane to stalemate.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

STRABANE Athletic have been doing a lot of travelling recently and they were on the road again last Saturday to face Intermediate League newcomers Magherafelt Sky Blues.


After the goal bonanza of the previous week this proved to be a much closer affair and ultimately it was the defenders and goalkeepers who emerged with the most credit on the day.

It was Strabane who looked most comfortable in the early stages, creating a few half chances before their keeper Ruairi McElroy had to move smartly off his line to thwart home midfielder Anthony O'Neil in the 25th minute.

Tom Carlin went close but was just beaten to the ball by home keeper Gareth Maguire and Aaron Porter's effort was just too high as Strabane continued to look the most likely to break the deadlock.

The Sky Blues served notice that they were quite capable of scoring themselves when a fine move saw Ciaran McKeever head down for Sean Og Monaghan to shoot narrowly wide. Strabane responded but Porter's cross didn't reach Kyle Harte while Gary Henderson and Conal Crawford both saw free kicks go wide of the goal.

The second half saw periods of pressure from both teams beginning with a couple of chances for Magherafelt. Athletic keeper Mc Elroy had a busy spell and produced a brilliant point blank stop to deny home centre forward Ciaran Mona ghan.

Strabane then regained the ascendancy and good approach play created chances for Tom Carlin and Porter before Gary Henderson met Cal Ryan's cross with a header that produced a fine save from home stopper Maguire. Ciaran Monaghan flashed a shot across goal for the Sky Blues before Strabane defender Aaron O'Hagan advanced for a corner kick and saw a close range effort deflected just wide.

McBrearty found Tom Carlin and the striker unluckily slipped but still managed to get in a shot which produced more good goalkeeping from Maguire. As the match drew to a close Athletic were grateful to defender Richie Graham for a superb blocking tackle on Monaghan and Ruairi McElroy made a great stop after a rare mistake in the Strabane defence.

Athletic had more of the chances to win this game and enjoyed the lion's share of possession. Magherafelt also had chances to take the points so it was surprising that the game ended scoreless. Both of these sides will harbour ambitions of winning the title and as the season progresses it will become more obvious to Strabane whether this was a point gained or two points dropped.

Another long journey faces Strabane Athletic at the weekend as they go to Rathfriland in the first round of this year's Northern Ireland Intermediate Cup. The game was drawn to be played in Strabane but because of previously documented difficulties regarding ground registration, Athletic must once again embark on a long away trip.

SAFC: Ruairi McElroy; Aaron O'Hagan; Mickey Logue; Richard Graham; Christopher Gallagher; Gary Henderson; Conal Crawford; Kyle Harte; Tom Carlin; Aaron Porter; Ronan McBrearty

SUBS: Aodhan Doherty; Cal Ryan; Shane Brennan


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