RAPHOE CAME AWAY from Lisburn with three vital points on a cold and bitter night last night.
South Antrim 3-5 Raphoe
Missing three regulars through work commitments, Raphoe – who hadn’t won in five – started the game well and pressed South from the first whistle creating a couple of half chances that South’s keeper done well to clear.
Raphoe took the lead inside 10 minutes – an aerial ball over the top of the South defence found Luke Witherow on the right hand side, his cross took a deflection and fell kindly to Stephen Cleverley who fired the ball back across goal for Luke Witherow to tap home at the back post.
Raphoe continued to press and with Witherow and Cleverley running their socks off up front South’s defence were having a torrid time. Raphoe’s midfield were also working tirelessly, breaking down a lot of South’s attacks and behind them their defence made several crucial tackles to keep South out of their circle.
Midway through the half South started to come more into the game and won a few short corners but Johnny Rankin denied Adam Glass on a couple of occasions. South then won a penalty stroke from a short corner that was stopped on the line by Keith Meehan’s foot but again Rankin was stood tall to save a weak effort.
At the other end Ben Wallace had a shot well saved from Raphoe’s first short corner and Witherow went close to scoring again from mid circle but the keeper somehow managed to clear the ball to safety. With under two minutes to half time South equalised – Chris Henry was allowed to run unchallenged from the half way line and when he got to the circle he unleashed a rocket into the top left hand corner giving Rankin no chance.
The half ended 1 – 1.
Raphoe regrouped at half time and three minutes after the break they were back in front – Ben Wallace finding the target from their first short corner of the half with a rasping shot.
Things were now starting to click nicely for Raphoe and they went further in front when Witherow scored with a reverse stick shot from the top of the circle that went through the keeper’s legs for 3-1.
Credit to South, they didn’t lay down and got themselves back into the game from a short corner – a superb drag flick from James Brown found the left hand side netting giving Rankin and Alan Meehan on the line no chance.
With only a goal in it now and South on the up Raphoe’s defence were now under the cosh and several good tackles by Meehan, Paul Stewart and William Wauchope ensured Raphoe stayed in the lead.
However, they couldn’t hold out for ever and South eventually got back on level terms – another short corner effort was stopped on the line by a foot and this time from the spot Adam Glass made no mistake sending Rankin the wrong and finding the bottom corner.
With South now well on top they pushed for a winner but they were undone on the counter attack – Alexander Tinney who had an excellent game at sweeper broke up the pitch with pace, he flicked the ball up field for Witherow and he unselfishly squared the ball to Wallace to tuck home at the back post.
With South now pushing hard for another equaliser they left big gaps at the back and Raphoe should have gone further in front but Ian McGonigle – returning from injury – had too much time in the area and he was eventually surrounded by South defenders and the ball cleared to safety.
With only a few minutes left Raphoe secured all three points – Tinney was impeded while trying to get his shot away and from the resultant penalty stroke Cleverley made no mistake firing low into the bottom left hand corner. South again tried to get back into the game and won a couple of short corners in the last minute but Rankin wasn’t to be beaten again and the match ended 5 – 3 to Raphoe.
The victory takes Raphoe to joint third in the table – alongside Belfast Harlequins – with 23 points from 14 games. Runaway leaders Instonians have 42 points from a possible 45 this term and second-placed Kilkeely have 38.
“After a dip in form and lack of a killer touch in front of goal this win was what we needed,” coach Rodney Bates said afterwards.
“In our last five outings we only clocked up four points from a possible 15 with four draws and a loss. To notch up five goals tonight on top of an excellent performance was just what the doctor ordered. We had a real hunger and belief about us tonight and that can win you matches.
“We have had a lot of injuries of late and we were missing several regulars due to work commitments but the guys that came in really stood up to the task. The injury list is gradually getting smaller and with 4 league games and a cup competition to go we will be hoping to get back to full strength very soon.”
On Saturday Raphoe travel to Glengormley to take on Mossley, push back for this game is 2.30pm.
Team: Johnny Rankin, Alexander Tinney, William Wauchope, Paul Stewart, Alan Meehan, Ian McGonigle, William Kilpatrick, Keith Meehan, Ben Wallace, Luke Witherow, Stephen Cleverley, Vincent Devenney, Alan Lyttle. Coach: Rodney Bates. Manager: Richard Eaton.Tags: