Rathfriland Rangers travelled to North Belfast to take on Basement FC in the second round of the Clarence Cup on Saturday and came away with a confidence boosting 5-1 victory.
The Rangers were looking to get back on track after a poor run of results and boy did they do it in style. Although Basement are a 2B side, they had accounted for Division 1A team Dunmurry Rec in the first round and so Rathfriland knew from the outset that they couldn’t afford to take their opponents lightly for fear of another upset.
Rathfriland started brightly and James Costello should have opened the scoring with just 10 minutes on the clock. Soon after, Kieran McCourt found Kernaghan wide on the right hand side with a precision pass. The ex-Banbridge Town man Kernaghan beat his marker and got to the by-line, before pullingh the ball back to Costello who eventually finished well after the keeperad made a great save from his first attempt.
The defence of McCourt, Main, Hutchinson and Weir were very solid at the back for the Whites, restricting Basement to just one shot on goal in the first half hour of the tie.
Following a surging run from Kernaghan, who picked the ball up in his own half, Rathfriland increased their lead when Martin Murphy finished calmly in front of goal. With Macken and McGrath dominating midfield, Rathfriland got to the break 2-0 in front.
The visitors started the second half as they finished the first, well on top and it came as no surprise when Thomas Lockhart scored a fine individual effort to make the score-line 3-0.
Neil McCracken came on to replace McCourt at right-back and the substitute fitted into the Rathfriland defence very comfortably, making a number of impressive tackles and interceptions.
The Whites continued to control the game and went 4-0 up when Costello stormed past two defenders and the keeper before coolly slotting home into the empty net to kill off the game. 16 year old Pollock entered the fray for the remaining 20 minutes in midfield, replacing Murphy who had worked tirelessly all day.
With 10 minutes remaining, Kernaghan got his just rewards for a fine all round performance when he scored goal number five with a great left footed strike that flew past the keeper. Rangers couldn’t hold on for a clean sheet, however, as Basement finished off the game with a consolation goal two minutes from time.
Overall, this was a good solid performance from Rathfriland Rangers on what could easily have been a tricky away cup fixture, especially given their opposition’s victory over superior opponents in the previous round.
A special mention must go to 16 year old James Pollock who acquitted himself very well, stepping up to the first team at such a young age and handling the task exceptionally well.
The club also sent a big thank-you to fans who made the trip to Belfast. Your continued support is appreciated by Manager John Kernaghan, Assistant Manager Dessie Gorman and the players.
RATHFRILAND RANGERS: Kieran Maguire, Kieran McCourt, Stephen Hutchinson, Phillip Main, Ian Weir, Thomas Lockhart, Conor Macken, Darren McGrath, Johnny Kernaghan, Martin Murphy, James Costello. Subs - Neil McCracken and James Pollock.