McCullough scores to earn U17s a draw

Banbridge Rangers U17s 4

Ballymoney United U17 4

Banbridge Rangers U17s scored goals in the opening and closing 60 seconds of the match to draw with Ballymoney in an entertaining game at Banbridge Tech.

Rangers went into the game in fourth place and only two points of their Antrim based rivals and were in the mood to overturn the corresponding fixture which saw Ballymoney run out comfortable victors.

The match was less than a minute old when Rangers centre midfield closed down their opponents and won back the ball inside the Ballymoney half with Mallen given the time to strike towards the bottom corner from 25 yards out with the keeper unable to make up the ground giving the home side an early advantage.

The visitors replied almost immediately taking advantage of some half hearted tackling on the edge of the Rangers area to level the scores.

The third goal of the game arrived in the eighth minute when Jason Adamson was able to come in from the right wing and smash a half volley into the roof of the net after opposite winger Lee McCullough saw his cross come back off the bar. The goal fest continued with Ballymoney equalising for the second time in the match only five minutes after going behind with a neat one two on the edge of the area being finished high past Adam Johnston in the Rangers nets.

Both teams settled over the next period of the game with Jason Adamson having the next clear cut chance just after the half mark but saw his shot cleared of the line by the covering defender.

Banbridge Rangers midfield was on top at this stage with Stuart Mallen and Jordan McCracken seeing efforts well saved by the away keeper.

Dean Gordon was using his Rory Delap style throw to cause havoc in the Ballymoney rearguard and a clearance from a long throw was well intercepted by McCracken who fed Mallen but was challenged at the edge of the area, Lee McCullough picked up the loose ball and side stepped two challenges before unleashing an unstoppable drive into the top corner from twenty yards out.

At the interval Rangers were in buoyant mood but knew their slender lead would come under threat at some stage with Ballymoney using their physical presence in attack.

Midway through the half Ballymoney grabbed an equaliser and looked to take the lead for the first time in the match only for some resolute defending and shot stopping from Johnston in the Rangers nets before fresh legs in Ball and McCrum were introduced.

As the game headed into the final third Lee McCullough was pushed forward to assist his strike partner Stephen Copes who had worked tirelessly all game to bring the midfield into the game.

Jeff Woods stepped into left midfield and Nathan Copes came onto the right hand side as Rangers pushed for a winner.

At the end of normal time the referee awarded a soft free kick inside the Rangers half which was converted by the Ballymoney forward to give them the lead heading into injury time. Banbridge Rangers pressed and were awarded a free kick in a similar position but this time the referee awarded a penalty for a blatant hand ball in the area by the Ballymoney left winger. Lee McCullough was as cool as can be and slotted home his seventh goal of the season from the penalty spot and earned Banbridge Rangers a deserved point.

Banbridge Rangers have been drawn away to Ballymoney in the Quarter Finals of the Intermediate Cup but before that match Rangers will have to overcome Markethill Swifts who will be visiting Banbridge Tech this Saturday and earlier kick off at 9.30am to allow the Under 17s to travel to Carrickfergus in support of the first team.