Graham strikes as Rathfriland held in top of the table clash

Mark Hutchinson (right) presents Mervyn Groves with a matchball sponsorship on behalf of Tom Kelly's Bar for Rathfriland Rangers' game against Ards Rangers.
Mark Hutchinson (right) presents Mervyn Groves with a matchball sponsorship on behalf of Tom Kelly's Bar for Rathfriland Rangers' game against Ards Rangers.

Nothing could separate title challengers Rathfriland Rangers and Ards Rangers in their top-of-the-table 1-1 draw at Iveagh Park.

David Graham had put the Whites ahead late in the first half with a fine curling effort, but Ryan Newberry struck a glorious free-kick to level midway through the second period.

Within the opening two minutes, Rathfriland lost their skipper Peter McCann to a calf tear. In spite of that, the Whites were well on top for much of the first 45 minutes.

Ally Wilson had a great chance to open the scoring when James Costello’s shot was parried into his path, but it fell to his weaker foot and the ‘keeper made a superb diving block.

The Whites went into the break deservedly ahead after Darren McGrath laid the ball to the edge of the box for Graham to find the far corner with a precision side-foot strike.

Costello had a chance to put the game to bed for the Whites when he broke clear of his marker in the second half, only for the ‘keeper to get repel his effort. Moments later, up stepped Newberry and swung his free-kick beyond Harrison’s reach and into the far corner.

And shortly afterwards the visitors should have gone ahead. Harrison’s stunning low, one-handed save from Michael Moore’s header kept the game level, while a last-ditch tackle from Daryl Evans prevented Ricky Rutherford from getting a shot away just yards away from goal.

Having dominated the first period, Rathfriland were holding on for the final 20 minutes, and a point apiece was ultimately a fair result.