Comfortable win for Rathfriland
Rathfriland Rangers beat Dundonald 2-0 in their first league game since the turn of the year after a battling second half performance.
Dundonald arrived with the tag of beaten Border Cup finalists and the tenacity and desire that woud have taken them to one of the Amateur League most prestigious cup finals was very much on show.
They were better in every department than Rangers in the first half.
The visitors were dangerous from set plays and every corner and free kick seemed to cause endless problems for the home side.
In the 10th minute their first corner saw the number nine flash a header just over the crossbar and then but for the good cover play of Aaron Black he could have given Dundonal the advantage.
Another corner was fizzed accross the face of the goal before Shane Harrison acrobatically tipped away a Dundonald 25 yard free kick that was sailing for the top corner.
Rathfriland’s first real attempt at goal was when a Jake Redpath run and cross was clipped just wide by Marty Havern.
John Scanell then went close for Rangers with a header from a free kick after McGrath was hauled down.
Costello’s turn and shot was saved by the visiting ‘keeper, before Dundonald had a header cleared off the line and a long goal kick from their goalkeeper to the front man was tidied up with both Redpath and Chris Havern closing in.
The match was scoreless at half-time with Rathfriland well below par in terms of their offensive play.
A change of formation saw the introduction of Tommy Lockhart, and this substituion combined with much improved pressing and tenacity, lifted the performance and desire of the home side.
Lockhart immediately found himself in the game when he squared for Costello for a great long range shot which was collected by the goalkeeper.
Scanell then embarked on one of his mazy runs but the final ball was cut out by a Dundonald centre half.
The game was mostly with Rathfriland at this stage and a curling free kick by Ross Black into the box was met by Costello whose volley brought a fingertip save from the Dundonal goalkeeper to push it over the bar.
The visiting keeper once again denied Rangers as he tipped a Marty Havern header over after Costello had dug out a cross from the left.
At the other end the visitors had a shot deflected just wide after a neat pull back from a break down the right and also a header from another dangerous corner which just shaved the post on its way out.
Rathfriland took the lead in this edgy game just after the hour - a great driving run from Ross Black saw him unleash a powerful 20 yard shot which was spilled by the ‘keeper and Costello pounced to poke home the rebound to send the large contingent of fans into raptures.
Further attempts by Marty Havern James Costello were saved before Rathfriland added a second goal in injury time to put the icing on the cake.
Darren McGrath rasped a low 20 yard curling shot in off the base of the post for a goal worthy of deciding any game.
There was barely time for the restart but after their cup exploits of the last few weeks Rangers need to start the first half of the league games with the same determination that they showed the second half.