Bryansburn Rangers enjoy a comfortable cup win over Bangor Swifts
Bangor Swifts 3 Bryansburn Rangers 8
If league football is every team’s bread and butter, then Bryansburn Rangers’ 8-3 Clarence Cup second round victory over fellow Division 1C side Bangor Swifts at the weekend was a piece of cake.
With the Swifts two places ahead of their opponents in the standings and enjoying home advantage, the expectation may have been of a narrow home win.
After this performance, however, it’s no wonder winning manager John Jones and his assistant Rab McDowell are licking their lips at the prospect of facing the same opposition at home in the league this Saturday for the opportunity to close the gap between the two sides to a solitary point.
Jones admitted: “The league game is obviously the more important one, but we are absolutely delighted with how the boys played today. We had plenty of chances and could even have had it wrapped up by half time.
“In fairness, we could have had won it 12 or 14, if it hadn’t been for their keeper. He was probably the man of the match and kept them in it for a big part of the game, but in the end
“Saturday will be some match, and we are really determined to go out and win it, as we want to lift ourselves out of this division. I think Colin Valley will win it easily enough, but there will be a battle on for second, and if we can keep performing like today, we can maybe put ourselves in with a chance.”
Just six minutes were on the clock when the first goal hit the back of the Swifts net, and it came from a well-delivered Mark Coard free kick from just inside the corner flag, picking out Mark Ballentine, who rose to nod Rangers into the lead.
Outstanding Swifts goalkeeper Connor McPeake gave his side’s derby rivals an early glimpse of what was to come from him as he first saved Matty Scott’s shot from six yards only a minute after the opener, then ten minutes later, pulled off a fantastic save after Johnny Mahoney’s through-ball to Stewart Morrison beat the offside trap.
Up until this point, the Swifts’ best chance to score appeared to be from set pieces, and midway through the first half, a 25-yard free kick from Mark Scott wasn’t far off, dipping just past Chris Black’s right post.
However, they looked unusually nervous in possession, and almost paid the price when a Ronan Walls back-pass fell short, but thankfully for the home side, McPeake was once again alert to dive quickly, thwarting Morrison, who had cut in and attempted to flick past him.
There was only so much the Swifts shot-stopper could do, though, and his side were soon two goals down, with a Morrison header from a Coard corner in the 26th minute.
It was pure one-way traffic by the half-hour mark, when Mahoney took the ball off Ryan Wilson with ease, cutting back to Morrison, who slid the ball into the bottom left hand corner – a lovely finish.
Credit to the Swifts, they did pull one back with a spectacular lob, courtesy of Brian Galloway in the 39th minute, but the three-goal margin was restored before half time, by Mahoney, who chested down from John Kehoe’s great high ball into the box before smashing it in from close quarters.
A response was needed from the home side, and in the second half, they delivered one (of sorts).
Jamie Brown was pulled down by Ross Gray ten minutes in, igniting something of a ruckus between the two sides, and although referee Keith Furlonger chose not to show a card, there was to be retribution from Jordan Dalzell’s resultant free kick, with Stephen Crawford producing the killer volley to make it 4-2.
Soon after, it was 4-3, with previous provider Dalzell weighing in with a volley of his own, having first skilfully lifted the ball over a defender to tee himself up for the strike.
Dalzell had the ball in the net once again in the 68th minute, but Swifts supporters were crest-fallen to see it ruled out for offside.
There was still plenty of time, however, and those supporters must have been particularly hopeful with their goalkeeper in such good form – first saving from Mahoney on a quick counter-attack, then, most impressively of all, coming all of 40 yards off his line to smother the ball at the feet of Mark Ballentine, who had breached that oh-so-shaky Swifts back-line yet again.
But Rangers were no spent force, and they charged ahead with their fifth goal on 80 minutes, as the ball took an unexpected bobble from Morrison’s forward pass, throwing McPeake for once, and giving the grateful Ballentine a simple finish.
With the game now out of the Swifts’ reaches, Rangers turned the screw with three goals in the closing five minutes – a sweet strike from Mahoney, and tap-ins from late substitutes Jordan Davidson and Cameron Ferris.
“We just didn’t defend well enough,” said Swifts boss Hugh Wilson afterwards.
Indeed, the scoreline said it all.
Conor McPeake: Truly last line of Swifts defence. 9
Mattie Neill: Tried his best to stay on top of things. 6
Jamie Brown: Had a torrid 65 minutes. 5
Ryan Wilson: Beaten to the ball too often. 5
Ronan Walls: Decent in the air. 6
Stephen Crawford: Got stuck in. 6
James Smyth: Passing good one minute, not so much the next. 6
Brian Galloway: His goal was a beauty. 7
Paul McKee: Didn’t test the keeper enough. 5
Jordan Dalzell: Looked to make things happen. 8
Mark Scott: Quick on the counter attack. 7
Daryll McNeill: On for Brown, 65
Ryan McBride: On for McKee, 75
Ian Hamilton: On for Smyth, 58
Chris Black: Not bad, just not as busy as his opposite number. 7
Ross Gray: A decent outing. 7
Alan McMullan: Looked fairly comfortable. 7
Ricky Thompson: A strong presence. 8
Craig Beattie: Held the back-line together well. 8
John Kehoe: Good committed performance. 7
Mark Coard: Fantastic delivery, especially from set-pieces. 8
Matty Scott: A steady showing. 7
Stewart Morrison: Nippy, pacey, slick in possession. 9
Mark Ballentine: Involved in most attacks. 9
Jonny Mahoney: Kept opposition on their toes. 9
Cameron Ferris: On for Beattie, 87
Jordan Davidson: On for Mahoney, 87
Will Cameron: On for Gray, 65
MAN OF THE MATCH: Connor McPeake (Bangor Swifts). It seems unusual, given the result, but without him in goal, the deficit could have been doubled.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Mark Ballentine’s 80th minute strike to make it 5-3 was the moment Bryansburn sealed the win.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Connor McPeake’s sprint out to near the halfway line to deny Mark Ballentine a goal-scoring opportunity was remarkable.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: Ronan Walls’ short back-pass that nearly gifted Stewart Morrison another first half goal… though that was pretty academic by the end.