RATHFRILAND’S U15 side travelled to Lurgan park on Saturday past to recommence their league campaign with a match against Lisbellaw after a three week break.
Both sides were clearly feeling the effects of the festive break with neither side capable of stringing together a succession of passes. The ball in the early stages was like the proverbial ‘hot potato’ with possession being thrown away at the drop of a hat.
As the game progressed both teams began to settle with Rathfriland in particular starting to get some rhythm in their play, moving the ball short and with increasing confidence.
Rathfriland were fielding new signing, former Linfield underage player, Ryan Clydesdale in the heart of the defence and he was solid throughout, particularly in the air, never missing a header.
His central defensive partner Ben Clydesdale continued his recent improving form, reading the game with increasing intelligence intercepting passes and arriving in the right place at the right time to thwart the opposition attacks.
The two full backs of Baird and Burns were once again reliably solid making the back four unit hard to penetrate. In front of them the midfield of Pollock and Aaron Weir with Byrne and Adams in wide positions battled well throughout protecting the back four and assisting the front duo of Megaw and Mallon who also worked their socks off.
Patterson in goal had little to do throughout but organised his defence well and when called upon to make a save was equal to most things.
Rathfriland took the lead when a well worked attack down the left hand side involving Byrne was finished off by the same player as he smashed a volley into the roof of the net from eight yards out to settle the Rathfriland nerves.
The first half ended with Rathfriland by now knocking the ball around with confidence.
The second half began with Lisbellaw now committing men forward in numbers bypassing midfield by hitting the ball long over the top. Rathfriland continued to try and play their own possession game and were for the most part comfortable. Lisbellaw were a bigger side than Rathfriland and when they forced a number of corners in the middle of the half there were a few anxious moments in the Rathfriland camp but the pressure eased.
Lisbellaw got their equaliser with ten minutes remaining when their best player slotted into the corner after good approach play.
It a good indication of how far the locals have come since the start of the season that they were sorely disappointed with a draw and certainly felt as if they had been beaten.
Team: Patterson, Burns, Baird, R Clydesdale, B Clydesdale, Pollack (capt.), Weir, Byrne, Adams, Megaw, Mallon, Subs. Moffett, McAvoy, Bailie.