Captain Cousins is the hat-trick hero as Rangers march on in Irish Cup

Colin Cousins shows off the match-ball after netting his hat-trick.
Colin Cousins shows off the match-ball after netting his hat-trick.

Banbridge Rangers captain Colin Cousins is now into his tenth season of providing moments of euphoria for the Cheney Park faithful and a superb hat-trick against Shorts on Saturday was added to the collection.

With four minutes to go, the Gers’ Irish Cup dream looked all but over until Cousins blasted in his second of the day and when his side went behind in extra-time he saved the best for last, skipping past three players and rattling the top corner from distance with Jason Gourley ensuring no need for penalties soon after.

It was a case of deja vu for the Gers who really should have had the tie wrapped up in the first half with a show of dominance in possession, territory and chances before the opposition were rejuvenated at the interval.

Cousins shot wide on 16 minutes followed by Porter crossing deep for Kenny Gracey two minutes later but the big striker saw his shot cannon off the post.

Something had to give and on 24 minutes Cousins picked the ball up on the right flank before playing a neat one two with Porter and then repeated the move with Gracey at the edge of the area before curling in first time with his left foot.

Before the half, Porter, Mallen and Gracey had attempts at goal but Shorts were defending bravely.

On 50 minutes, Shorts equalised with their first shot on target when they picked up a loose pass and midfielder John McGhee duly chipped stand in keeper Chris Chambers from 35 yards.

The wake up call was heard loud and clear as Rangers found their intensity from the restart. Mark Wilton rattled the underside of the bar on 52 minutes with a ferocious strike with Cousins then having a header cleared off the line only a minute later.

Rangers were caught with a high line again on 71 minutes with Chambers again standing tall to block the one on one but could do nothing to prevent the rebound from Marc Bell to make it 2-1.

When the chips are down, you need leaders on the pitch and with four minutes remaining an innocuous pass across the 18 yard line found its way to Cousins who stopped the ball dead and executed his shot into the bottom corner to the home crowd’s delight.

In stoppage time, a premature cheer went up from the crowd as Gourley burst through on goal and his left foot shot looked destined for the near top corner but Shorts keeper McNeilly’s fingertips diverted its course.

In the 99th minute Shorts regained their lead when a through ball down the centre was struck first time by striker Gary Hewitt and he caught Chambers flat footed with the snapshot to edge 3-2 in front.

After a quick turnaround, the Gers had fifteen minutes to salvage their run in the Irish Cup and in the 109th minute Coly Cousins obliged.

The midfielder picked up the ball inside Shorts half and used his pace and tenacity to drive past three players whilst travelling right before cutting a shot into the far top corner from 25 yards

With six minutes left a ball whipped into Gracey on the six yard line saw his effort parried but Jason Gourley was on hand to chest in for the win.

A morale boosting win ahead of Saturday’s league tie against Ballymacash Rangers, who finished third last season, kick-off at 2.15pm at Cheney Park.

RANGERS: Chambers, Porter, Gregg, O’Neill, Frazer, Beattie (Hughes 62), Wilton (Gourley 68), Cousins (c), Corr, Mallen, Gracey.

Referee: Andrew McDonald (Portadown)