A brace from Ally Wilson gave Rathfriland Rangers a crucial 2-1 victory over fellow strugglers Rosario YC on Saturday and lifted the Whites off the bottom spot in NAFL Division 1A.
Wilson struck from the penalty spot and netted a late winner after Eamon Carlin had scored for the Belfast side just before the break.
This was the first of seven fixtures for the Rangers in the space of just 15 days, and it was a nerve-fraying game of football. The home side dominated possession but for long periods they simply didn’t look like they would grab that all-important second goal.
A collective sigh of relief could almost be heard at the final whistle, with the result giving manager Clifford Sterritt a fifth win from the eight games he has been in charge of the Whites, as he looks to guide them away from the league’s drop-zone.
The Whites went ahead on 15 minutes when they were awarded a penalty and after a series of recent misses from the spot from his teammates, Wilson took it upon himself to convert it.
Rosario offered little in the way of a threat for most of the first period, but just before the break some sharp passing and movement originating from a free-kick inside their own half helped them to cut through the Whites midfield and Eamon Carlin leathered a rasping shot into the far corner.
It was their first real effort on goal and it shook the Rangers, who had been sitting comfortably - a little too comfortably, perhaps.
As the game wore on in the second-half and the high stakes became more and more apparent, hard tackles were commonplace and yellow cards were dished out by the referee.
James Costello saw a left-footed effort go just wide and Darren McGrath had a floated free-kick clawed away just as it looked to be heading in - it seemed the Whites’ luck was out.
But five minutes from time, substitute Michael Green curled in a sumptuous cross towards Wilson, who could only scuff an effort on goal at first, but as the ball bounced up he was there to out-jump keeper Neil Poland and nod the ball in for the winner.
At least, it looked like the winner, but it very nearly wasn’t. In stoppage time, Carlin almost snatched a point for Rosario when he struck a shot against the face of the upright, only for it to cannon away to safety. And with that, the points were in the bag for Rathfriland.
The Rangers now face the same opponents tonight (Tuesday), and will be looking for a repeat result which would take them to within a whisker of securing safety. They then tackle Orangefield Old Boys on Thursday night at Cregagh Sports Club in Belfast.
Kick-off tonight at Ulidia Playing Fields on Belfast’s Ormeau Road is at 6:30pm.
Man of the match: Conor Fegan (Rathfriland Rangers).
RATHFRILAND RANGERS: Kieran Maguire, Chris Havern, Conor Larkin, Kevin Henry, Ross Black, Karl McVerry, James Costello, Conor Fegan, Darren McGrath, Ally Wilson, Decky Carville. Subs: Nathan Baird, Michael Green, Philip Main, Ben Wilson.
ROSARIO YC: Neil Poland Stephen Graham, Kieran McGourty, Jamie Gardiner, Jamie Mairs, Neill McGowan, Conor Murray, Stephen Dougal, Eamon Carlin, Seamus Moore, Peter Graham. Subs: Micheal Murray, Darren Spence, Sean McGonigle.