Rathfriland produced what is likely their best display of the season on Saturday, thumping St Pat’s Athletic 5-1 at the Olympic leisure centre.
St Pats home form would have suggested that this would be a very close encounter. However, Rathfriland produced a magnificent display winning 5-1, with striker James Costello netting a hat-trick.
Rathfriland made one change from last week’s starting line up with Johnny Black slotting in at left black in place of the injured Baird.
Aaron Black and Conor Larkin again combined at the heart of the defence with Chris Havern continuing at right back.
The game started off with both teams possibly finding their feet on the wet 3G surface which allowed the game to happen, when many games in the league fell foul of the November weather.
Rathfriland signalled their usual attacking intentions early on with the front four of Darren McGrath, James Costello, Conor Fegan and Ally Wilson all linking up well in the early stages.
Although they started brightly, Rathfriland conceded the first goal of the game.
A long ball over the Rathfriland defence was snapped up by the St Pats striker who cooly finished past the isolated Shane Harrison in the Rathfriland goal.
This goal seemed to spark Rathfriland into life as they responded with an equaliser almost immediately.
McGrath made up excellent ground down the right hand side and played in James Costello who cut inside the defender and side footed into the corner of the net past the advancing keeper.
Ally Wilson was next to threaten the St Pats goal with a couple of efforts which stung the hands of the st pats keeper.
Rathfriland had a big penalty claim when Johnny Black went on a great run overlapping down the left hand side and was hauled down indoor the box but Rathfriland’s claims were waved away by the referee.
The athletic Conor Fegan was having an excellent game on Rathfriland’s left hand side and it was he who grabbed the third goal of the game.
Again Darren McGrath drove down the right wing with his pace and slid a delicious low cross for Conor Fegan to side foot home from close range much to the delight of the travelling away support.
Half time came with a few more chances coming to either side but the second half promised more goals and it didn’t disappoint. HT 2-1.
The second half started with Rathfriland coming firing out of the blocks and pressuring the St Pats defence into making mistakes.
Ross Black and John Scannell took the fight to the St Pats midfield and it wasn’t long before their dominance provided the building blocks for more chances on goal.
Even with Rathfriland controlling the game they were again caught out with a long ball which Shane Harrison made a terrific one handed save to push the effort onto the post.
Johnny Black was having an inventive game in left back and was providing extra support in many of Rathfriland’s attacks down the left.
The introduction of Marty Havern with 25 minutes left injected added pace into the Rathfriland attack and it was he who intercepted a defensive mistake and cleverly played an early pass to Costello who struck an effort in via the post to make the score 3-1.
The score of 3-1 soon became 4-1 when Scannell picked up the play outside of the St Pats penalty area and guided a beautiful lofted pass into Costello who controlled with one touch and smashed home into the corner with his next to compete his hat-trick.
With St Pats well and truly on the ropes Rathfriland introduced the enigmatic Tommy Lockhart who made his mark in the game soon after his introduction.
A through ball by Costello was picked up by Lockhart on the run and without breaking stride he unleashed a thunderbolt into the top corner to which the keeper could only wave at on the way past. 5-1 and the game was well and truly over.
Some final chances fell to the feet of Costello, M. Havern and also Ross Black but the score line remained 5-1 and that’s how the game finished.
Surely the travelling support from Rathfriland would agree to this being an impressive display.
Next week Comber Rec travel to Iveagh Park to take on the mighty Whites, weather permitting, of course.