Rathfriland Rangers had two points pinched from them when 10-man Crumlin United scored deep into injury time to claim a 3-3 draw in a heated league clash on Saturday.
The Whites were left to wonder how they spurned a two-goal lead late in the game, and how they hadn’t killed their opponents off long before that. Carrying a 2-0 advantage into the half-time break after goals by James Costello and Niall Mackin, they looked to be cruising.
And when the home side pulled one back, Rathfriland immediately hit back with their third through Johnny Kernaghan.
But incisive passing allowed Crumlin to grab a second and then a third was scrambled in right at the death to break Rathfriland hearts.
Having come off the back of a 5-1 win over Basement in the Clarence Cup the previous weekend, confidence was on the up among the Rangers ranks, and they took the lead early in the first half against Crumlin through Costello’s quality finish.
As the first 45 wore on, Rathfriland looked the better side and posed a real threat from Stephen McArdle’s corner kicks. One deep delivery was hooked back across goal by Costello for his strike-partner and new signing Mackin to turn in for his first goal for the club.
After the break, Crumlin began showing signs that they could exert their authority, and their impressive central midfielder danced past four challenges before lifting the ball over Kieran Maguire to give his side hope of a comeback.
But within two minutes, they were picking the ball out of their own net again, when Kernaghan followed up with a right-footed strike into the net after Costello’s effort had been saved and rebounded out to him.
Costello then had two gilt-edged chances to put the Whites out of sight, but when he found himself in a one-on-one he was unable to beat the keeper, and later sent a shot over the bar with the goalkeeper stranded.
The dismissal should have made it easier for the Whites to close the game out, but instead it seemed to inspire the hosts to push for something from the game, and with 10 minutes remaining a clever pass picked out their forward who turned the ball into the net with a sharp first-time finish.
And as the game edged towards the finish, Crumlin threw men forward in attacking waves. A long throw-in pinball around the six-yard box and was eventually poked home for the leveller.
It was a cruel blow after what had been a determined and largely impressive performance, but the Whites must now pick themselves up for a challenging Clarence Cup tie away to Dromara Village this weekend.
RATHFRILAND RANGERS: Kieran Maguire, Kieran McCourt, Philip Main, Stephen Hutchinson, Ian Weir, Johnny Kernaghan, Conor Macken, Stephen McArdle, Darren McGrath, James Costello, Niall Mackin. Subs: Martin Murphy, Gary O’Reilly, Cathal Tumilty.