RAPHOE CONTINUE on their way to their goal of retaining their Ulster Premier League status with an impressive win over Portadown at the Royal and Prior School Grounds.Raphoe 2 Portadown 1
The biting December chill was tempered significantly by goals from Ben Wallace and Alan Lyttle gave Raphoe a win that lifts them above Civil Service into fifth spot.
It was a deserved win for Rodney Bates’ team, even if there were passages during which it had the feeling of one of those days where their failure to convert chances would come back and tap them on the shoulder at the conclusion.
When Stewart Kirkland fired an equalising goal past Johnny Rankin in the 48th minute, Portadown were inspired, but the Raphoe response was just what they needed.
Within four minutes, an excellent team move, which saw them sweep from one end to the other, concluded with Lyttle slicing beyond Jamie Knipe, the Portadown goalkeeper, for what proved to be the winner.
With Matthew Lecky sidelined for the remainder of the season owing to a shoulder injury sustained earlier in the season that requires surgery, Raphoe welcomed Simon Goudie and Keith Meehan back to the squad today following spells sidelined with injuries.
16-year-old Wallace, who has represented Ireland at underage level, showed his class at several junctures and it was he who opened the scoring – right on the blow of the half-time whiste.
Raphoe worked a well-rehearsed short corner move and Wallace smashed to the net.
It was no more than Raphoe’s first-half endeavours had deserved.
Wallace, Luke Witherow and Kit Regan stood out in the opening period for Raphoe, whose first clear-cut chance fell to Ian McGonigle, but he drilled well over from the edge of the circle.
Raphoe looked certain to break the deadlock in the 15th minute, but Alexander Tinney’s fine run down the right and subsequent cross saw Regan somehow denied by Knipe, whose helmet, somehow, saved the day.
The home side were turning the screw and Steven Cleverley saw a shot deflected over the top after Keith Meehan and Regan had combined, while Tinney was denied by Knipe after a superb solo run in which he took just a touch too many.
They didn’t have it all their own way, but Portadown attacks in the opening stanza were rare, although Rankin was on form to make a brilliant reaction save that kept Gregory Croft at bay.
Wallace whacked home the opener, but Raphoe didn’t build on the resumption. Another tricky run by Tinney ended with a cross for Witherow, but his shot was turned away by Knipe, who then saved from Wallace who had weaved his way into position.
Portadown drew level when Adam Stephenson teed up Kirkland, whose finish was exquisite and, suddenly, the momentum had shifted.
Raphoe shook their heads clear, though, and were back in front when Lyttle became large and wonderfully finished off a slick Raphoe move.
The Tuesday night sessions with Adam Speer are clearly paying off, for Raphoe’s energy in the closing stages was still evident and they did well to close out the game, in spite of the inevitable onslaught, with Rankin saving well from Stevenson and Jonny Brown.
Raphoe: Johnny Rankin, Ben Wallace, Simon Goudie, Alexander Tinney, Alan Meehan, Alan Lyttle, Vincent Devenney, Keith Meehan, Paul Stewart, Luke Witherow, Ian McGonigle, Kit Regan, Steven Cleverley, William Kilpatrick.
Portadown: Jamie Knipe, Geoffrey Edgar, Stuart Bell, Gareth Titler, Adam Stevenson, Jonny Brown, Graeme Morrison, Robbie Scott, Gregory Croft, Mackendrie Bennett, Zach McClelland, Matthew Winter, Stewart Kirkland, Steven Johnston.Tags: