RATHFRILAND Rangers defeated a stubborn Ballynahinch United to move to third in Division 1B, but the win came at a cost with Paul Evans suffering an injury.
Colm Kearney put the Whites ahead midway through the first half, but ‘Hinch striker Stephen Kennedy equalised with goal against the run of play.
Alan Murray restored the home side’s lead just before half-time, and Tim Sexton secured the three points late into the second-half with his first goal for the club.
But veteran defender Evans was carried from the field eight minutes from the finish, after picking up an injury to his knee.
An early free-kick from Ally Wilson which was tipped around the post was the closest they came in the opening 20 minutes, but his strike-partner Kearney broke the deadlock moments later.
Scott Ward tried his luck from the edge of the area with a shot from outside of his foot towards the far corner. ‘Hinch ‘keeper Bryan McMullan got a hand to it, but he could only push the ball back into the danger zone where Kearney had been lurking, and he was on hand to fire home from eight yards.
A quick throw-in found Ian McMullan, and his through-ball was chased by Stephen Kennedy. He prodded his finish past Shane Harrison for equaliser.
The two sides looked like they would be reaching half-time with the score at a stalemate, and ‘Hinch would have been happy to reach the break on level terms, but another goalkeeping lapse cost them in the second minute of added time.
Ally Beck’s swinging free-kick from the right was spilled by McMullan straight to Murray’s feet, and he stabbed the ball home from close range for a replica of the Whites’ opener.
In the second 45, Rathfriland continued to dominate, but couldn’t manage to find a third goal to kill the game off.
The long-awaited third came on 78 minutes. Wilson skipped clear of the offside trap, and delivered a ball into the six-yard box where Sexton had his marker to bundle it home.
Evans’ suffered his injury when he turned sharply off the ball and went down in agony, and he was replaced after lengthy treatment from physio Stewart Rowland.
Man of the match: Alan Murray (Rathfriland Rangers)
Rathfriland Rangers: Shane Harrison, Colum McComish, Conor Larkin, Alan Murray, Paul Evans, Tim Sexton, Scott Ward, Stevie Coulter, Ally Beck, Colm Kearney, Ally Wilson. Subs: Nathan Baird, Joe Toal, Ian Weir.
Ballinahinch United: Bryan McMullan, Aaron Cheevers, Adam Heron, Macauley Foster, Ross Haynes, Scott Brashaw, David Kelly, Ian McMullan, Johnny Hunter, Stephen Kennedy. Subs: Jonathan Smyth, Scott McKibben, Gareth Bingham.