Eastern delight for Rathfriland Rangers

RATHFRILAND Rangers travelled to east Belfast on Saturday to take on Bloomfield in the second round of the JJB Irish Cup.

Not often in these competitions do teams take on each other from within their own league but was exactly the situation on Saturday with Rathfriland and Bloomfield locking horns at Houston Park.

Rathfriland did not seem to come out of the blocks firing on all cylinders as they struggled to get any sort of rhythm going to their game.

It was down the right hand side that the visitors were getting more of the possession with Ryan Evans finding himself going forward with regularity but the physical Bloomfield defence never allowed him much space to show his final ball.

The home side were always a threat in the early stages as they passed the ball well especially in the centre of the pitch, the net result move often than not was to test Harrison in the Rathfriland goal. On the 20 minute mark Bloomfield broke down the left and centred with a low ball with the number nine slotting low into the bottom corner to give the home side the lead – a lead which it has to be said they deserved.

Rangers seemed to rally from this and were awarded a penalty within minutes after Ryan Evans was turned over inside the box. From the resultant penalty Evans himself clipped the crossbar with a side footed shot to the home side`s relief. Straight after this Evans pulled a shot wide with his left foot while the Bloomfield goalkeeper also made saves from Coulter and Wilson.

Probably a more genuine penalty claim for Rathfriland was then waved away by the referee with Bloomfield also testing Harrison before the half time whistle.

In the second period it has to be said that it was all Rathfriland but Bloomfield defended for their lives throwing themselves at everything while the `keeper also earned his stripes with a number of fantastic saves.

Ryan Evans pulled another left foot shot wide while Scott Ward and Ally Wilson had shots charged down. A couple of goal line clearances added to the excitement but on the hour Rathfriland were awarded their second penalty of the game and up stepped Stevie Coulter to fire a brilliant firm shot into the bottom corner to level the scores at 1–1.

A more relaxed mood was evident in Rangers` play and they started to play some neat football with Ally Beck combining well with the central midfielders and strikers.

With 10 minutes to go a ball over the top was latched on to by Wilson who vooly lobbed the keeper to give Rathfriland a 2–1 lead although it has to be said that he did look offside.

Bloomfield offered little after this and another close range strike by Ally Wilson from a corner to the back post ensured Rathfriland`s passage to the next round of this competition.

Overall not the best Rathfriland performance you will ever see and after a slow start they ground out a good result against a plucky Bloomfield side – always a good sign if you can shill win while not fully at your best level of performance.

TEAM: Harrison, A Evans, G Waddell, Larkin, Allister, Henry, Ward, R Evans, Coulter, P Evans, Wilson.