Cup defeat for Athletic at Rathfriland.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

STRABANE Athletic made the long journey at Iveagh Park to take on Rathriland Rangers in the Intermediate Cup, but were unlucky to bow out of the compatition on a 3-2 scoreline.


Athletic got off to a dream start when Ronan McBrearty's shot was allowed to slip under his body by home keeper Shane Harrison in the third minute.

It nearly got even better for the visitors three minutes later when a nice ball by Shane Brennan freed Kyle Harte for a run on goal. His lob beat the advancing Harrison but also cleared the crossbar.

The home team were stung into a response and centre forward James Costello rattled the Strabane crossbar. The same player broke away from the Athletic defence a few minutes later and provided a pinpoint low cross for strike partner Steven Coulter to equalise.

The impressive Costello was involved in all of Rathfriland's best attacking moves, keeping visiting keeper Ruairi McElroy busy with two shots, the second of which he did well to deflect for a corner.

Costello brought another good save from Mc Elroy before the busy striker provided a skilful back heel which opened the Strabane defence and allowed attacking left back Jack Graham to put the Co.Down team into the lead.

It was Athletic's turn to respond and they did so in fine style with McBrearty's shot saved at full stretch and the same player providing a couple of good crosses well defended by the home team.

At the other end Rathfriland nearly extended their lead when a fine turn and shot by Darryl Evans just shaved the post. But it was Strabane who were doing most of the attacking now and Tom Carlin saw a shot turned over the bar and another pushed around the post by Rangers' net minder Harrison.

Carlin then flicked a nice ball into the path of Shane Brennan but the winger's shot was blocked by a last ditch tackle.

Strabane got a deserved equaliser on the stroke of half time and it came as a result of superb build up play which led to Brennan finding Aodhan Doherty who finished the move confidently from close range.

'Storm Brian" threatened to disrupt the proceedings after the interval but despite the significant wind a high standard of football was maintained by both teams throughout the second period.

A very even contest was settled after 65 minutes when a cross to the far post by left back Graham was headed home by Steven Coulter.This was a cruel blow for Strabane who had established control but now found themselves chasing the game again.

Athletic had efforts from Kyle Harte, substitute Dylan Peoples and a shot from Aodhan Doherty which were all close to restoring parity. The home team however were always dangerous on the break and Costello rattled the crossbar while Ruairi Mc Elroy produced a superb save to deny Shay McConville. There was to be no further scoring and the game ended with Rathfriland Rangers progressing to the second round of this year's Intermediate Cup.

The National cup competitions have not been kind to Strabane this year. Results aside they have had to forsake home draws and make long journeys on both occasions. But the team emerged with pride intact after Saturday's display against a Rathfriland Rangers side who impressed against Premier opposition in pre season and who are presently flying high in their own league.

Next up for Strabane Athletic is a North West Craig Cup semi final tie against Maiden City to be played at Spamount, Castlederg. Kick off on Saturday is scheduled for 2pm.

SAFC: Ruairi McElroy; Michael Logue; Cal Ryan; Gary Henderson; Christy Gallagher; Aodhan Doherty; Conal Crawford; Kyle Harte; Shane Brennan; Ronan McBrearty; Tom Carlin. SUBS: Eamon Ferguson; Dylan Forbes; Dylan Peoples.

Strabane Athletic Reserves unbeaten run came to an end when the lost 3-0 to Creggan Swifts last Saturday. The young team have a chance to get back to winning ways when they entertain City Colts at Melvin Park on Saturday, kick off 10.30am.


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