Ards Rangers' Christmas wish comes true with Border Cup final win over Downpatrick
Like a child on Christmas morning who had just got what he asked for, Lee Forsythe could hardly contain his excitement as he joined his Ards Rangers players and staff in their celebrations after beating Downpatrick 3-1 in Saturday’s Border Cup final.
In reality, this Seaview victory isn’t at the very top of the Drome Park boss’s list – everyone knows respective Premier Division and Division 1A title glory are what Rangers and Downpatrick really want this season – but he realises this result could be a springboard to even greater things.
This may not quite have been the Christmas cracker the healthy crowd were anticipating, but the main thing for the Premier Division table-toppers is that it continues a staggering run in competitive football, which so far has also earned them nine league wins and a draw, not to mention an upcoming plum draw against Cliftonville in the Irish Cup. Indeed, their only defeats have been against Ballymena United Reserves in the Steel & Sons Cup, and Rosario YC in the Intermediate Cup.
And why stop at a league and cup double, when there is even more silverware up for grabs?
A jubilant Forsythe grinned: “We are still in the Clarence Cup and top of the league too, so I couldn’t really have asked for more. But today was all about the result, and getting some tin in the cupboard.”
Given how Rangers have largely flourished under their current manager, it is arguably surprising to learn that this marks just the second piece of silverware in his seven-year reign to date.
Yet in light of how many near misses they have had in their recent past, the victory surely tasted almost every bit as sweet as their 2011/12 title triumph.
The Rangers manager continued: “That’s a massive monkey off our backs today, getting our hands on a cup. I am sure after two Clarence Cup final defeats and one in the Intermediate Cup final, some people were probably wondering when it would ever happen.
“We were terrible today, particularly in the first half, and I don’t think the surface helped either team. But we defended like lions and showed great character to win this. It’s up to the lads to keep that going for the rest of the season.”
A scrappy opening half to the Amateur League’s showpiece final gave little away about who would be the eventual winners, but on the rare occasions that the ball was played along the ground, Downpatrick probably shaded it.
Having failed to test David Ferguson from a 12th minute Barry Treacy free kick which hit the wall, the 1A leaders did force an excellent finger-tip save courtesy of an Aaron McGarry volley three minutes later… but the whistle had already gone for offside, in any case.
Downpatrick continued to hint at a threat, with Jamie Patterson alert to the danger with a well-timed sliding tackle to retrieve the ball after Peter Telford had put Eoin Boyle through.
Rangers got their first clear-cut opportunity midway through the half, with Glen Upton’s rebound shot blocked by Terence Bell, after Michael McKenna had kept out a Ryan Newberry effort.
And when Rangers broke the deadlock in the 33rd minute, Newberry was involved yet again, threading the ball to the back post, to pick out none other than experienced centre-back Mark Holland, who slid in to knock the ball past his own goalkeeper.
Downpatrick’s anguish wasn’t long-lived, however, as Andrew Telford showed great attacking instincts to level the scores just two minutes later, latching onto a misplaced Patterson header before dashing 20 yards to goal, and slotting the ball in behind McKenna.
Soon after this, Gary Brown brought down Andrew Telford with a cynical tug in a dangerous position, prompting some calls for referee Trevor Moutray to show a red card, but he produced yellow instead, noting that Patterson’s presence ensured his team-mate wasn’t the last man.
Holland was then given an opportunity to redeem himself on 41 minutes as the ball floated towards him from a Treacy free kick, but the former Cliftonville and Lisburn Distillery man headed wide.
Rangers regained their lead seven minutes into the second half, as a great Newberry pass found Upton, whose goal-bound lob was helped over the line by the predatorial Tony Tumelty.
By this stage, the Peninsula men looked decent value for their advantage, but a Brown foul on Treacy – which earned him his second yellow card and subsequent red – threatened to undermine that, with 25 minutes still to play.
Within seconds, Peter Telford could so easily have made it 2-2 amidst a flurry of activity in the Rangers box, but instead lifted it over the bar from an Aron McGarry flick-on.
It was a missed opportunity that would soon be rued, as Downpatrick’s opponents darted up the other end, and man-of-the-match Newberry turned provider yet again, playing through to Upton, who slotted comfortably past McKenna.
Downpatrick didn’t let their heads drop, and could have brought themselves right back into it in the 85th minute, but for Mark Drysdale’s goal-line clearance from a well-hit Andrew Baggley effort, maintained Rangers two-goal advantage.
“Unfortunately, all the big moments went against us,” lamented Downpatrick’s joint manager Joe McMahon afterwards. “Credit to Ards Rangers, though, they defended well.
“It hurts now, but we have to take that into the rest of our season. This team isn’t finished.”
David Ferguson: A reassuringly solid performance. 7
Johnny Roy: Didn’t put a foot wrong. 7
Marc Roy: Always there to break down the attacks. 8
Gary Brown: Poor judgement earned him two bookings. 5
Jamie Patterson: A defensive rock for Rangers. 9
Steven Hislop: Tenacious to the last. 8
Tony Tumelty: Showed his goal-getting ability. 7
Ryan Newberry: Picked out his team-mates time and again. 9
Ricky Rutherford: Aerial presence troubled Downpatrick defence. 7
Glen Upton: Showed great striker’s instincts. 7
Simon Moffatt: Put in a decent shift. 7
Calum James: On for Rutherford, 80
Mark Drysdale: On for Tumelty, 64
Allan Reid: On for Hislop, 69
Michael McKenna: Will have better games than this one. 6
Terence Bell: Made a few decent interceptions. 7
Blaine Connolly: A fair effort. 7
Mark Holland: This just wasn’t his day. 6
Mark Curran: Good positioning, led by example. 8
Andrew Baggley: Unlucky not to score. 7
Barry Treacy: Most effective from set pieces. 7
Peter Telford: Kept the opposition back line busy. 7
Eoin Boyle: Showed glimpses of the threat he carried. 7
Andrew Telford: Kept a cool ahead to put give his side the lead. 8
Aaron McGarry: Didn’t make a huge impression. 6
Gerard Collins: On for Curran, 76
Chris Mullan: On for McGarry, 72
Niall Walsh: On for Bell, 86
MAN OF THE MATCH: Ryan Newberry (Ards Rangers). Played a part in all three Ards Rangers goals – a real creative force.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Gary Brown’s sending off in the 65th minute probably focussed his team-mates even more on maintaining their lead.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Mark Drysdale’s goal-line clearance from Andrew Baggley towards the end was a crucial moment for 10-man Ards Rangers.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: It was hard not to feel for Mark Holland – a runner-up with Kilmore Rec in last season’s final – as he steered the ball into his own net.
Belfast Telegraph Digital