Ards Rangers narrowly escape Border Cup upset by spirited Barn United
Border Cup third round - Ards Rangers 5 Barn United 4 (after extra time)
Ards Rangers manager Lee Forsythe may have watched his team stage an extra time fight-back from two goals behind to keep their Border Cup defence alive… but that didn’t stop him from giving them a rollicking afterwards.
The cup holders and Premier Division champions were made to work for their progress to the quarter-finals against a side who haven’t won any of their six Division 1A games this season.
And Forsythe, who last month saw Rangers dumped of the Steel & Sons Cup by bottom 1B side Sirocco Works, was particularly dismayed but what he viewed as a lack of commitment from his players for a large part of this game.
Moments after the final whistle, he stated: “I am going to have a good go at them in here. That was brutal… disgusting. I can deal with players playing poorly, but when they are just not working, that is something else.
“We didn’t look interested until we were 3-1 down, and you can’t get away with that. There was an arrogance out there, people were thinking ‘oh, Rutherford or Newberry will get us out of this.' They were lucky.
“Barn were brilliant, and they looked like they wanted it more than us, but I think our fitness came through for us in the end, and I suppose, when you consider we played about 50 minutes with 10 men (after a red card for Steven Hislop), we deserve some credit for that at least.”
When Ricky Rutherford sent Rangers into a third minute lead, with a well-driven effort from outside the area, it looked like a one-sided cup tie lay ahead.
But to Barn’s credit, they didn’t allow their heads to drop, and in the 14th minute, Keith Anderson caught Keith Anderson off his goal-line, and his lob was only prevented from hitting the target by the well-placed Jamie Patterson, who headed clear.
The concern for the home side was the frequency with which their opponents were threatening their goal, with an unchallenged Stephen Smith firing over, an Anderson free kick travelling the same way, and Patterson coming to the rescue for Forsythe’s side again as he intercepted a Gary McKee free kick which otherwise would have found Matt McDonald for a sure-fire goal.
Instead, Barn only had to wait until the 31st minute before their deserved equaliser arrived, with Andrew Kane heading down to McDonald, who struck low and hard to give goalkeeper David Ferguson no chance.
The scores wouldn’t have been level for much longer where it not for the goalkeeping talent of Barn’s Dean Haggan, who first stretched well to keep out a curling Ryan Newberry free kick, and then saved well again when Gary Brown charged in with a follow-up attempt.
Newberry appeared eager to register his name on the score-sheet and came close, as his deflected shot was tipped out by Haggan, while the keeper thwarted him again as he met his sweetly struck effort with a sprawling save of equal quality.
Barn clearly felt a huge cup upset was on the cards, and when Gary McDermott’s shot drifted past the post early in the second half, that sentiment no doubt grew within them.
The Carrickfergus men grabbed the initiative in the 49th minute, when Anderson put Warren Brown through for a one-on-one with Ferguson, and calmly took it round the goalkeeper to leave himself with a simple tap-in.
McDermott’s agony in front of goal continued, as he squandered a golden chance for an immediate equaliser, screwing wide from Rutherford’s through-ball.
Barn yet again seemed to take this as some sort of pointer to make the most of their chances at the other end, and on the hour mark, when an Anderson free kick was cleared only to the edge of the Rangers box, Kane had the time to pick his spot with a fine finish down to the keeper’s right.
Things went from bad to worse for Rangers when Hislop was shown red for his challenge on Smith, but developments were about to take a turn for the better for the Drome Park side.
Just two minutes after coming on from the subs bench, Jonny Roy netted with a low swerving free kick, and by the 75th minute, he had drawn the teams level, with a neat penalty, after Neil McClements brought Simon Moffatt down in the box.
There were chances for either side to kill the game off in normal time, with a Rutherford header coming close, and a goal-bound shot from Brown headed away by the dependable Patterson.
Penalties were beginning to have an air of inevitability about them, especially when McDermott’s instinctive finish in the first minute of extra time was cancelled out by a sublime McKee free kick just five minutes after.
In the grand scheme of things, Barn will feel their efforts at least warranted an opportunity from the spot, but with only one minute left to such an outcome, Rutherford popped up with a back post header from a Jonny Roy cross to spare his team-mates the drama.
“I’m absolutely gutted,” remarked Barn's assistant manager Ian Scott, who was standing in for regular first team gaffer Jim Pherson.
“Fair play to Ards Rangers, they are a great side, and they showed that by the way they came back today, but we will never get a better chance than that to beat them.
“I felt the effort our boys showed today was brilliant, but they need to keep doing that now. The league has already become about staying up for us this season, and we are better than what we have been showing in the league.”
MAN OF THE MATCH: Jonny Roy (Ards Rangers). On for less than the entire match, but two goals and an assist makes this an easy choice.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Ricky Rutherford’s last gasp header in extra time was the decisive moment the Border Cup holders narrowly avoided a spot-kick showdown.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Dean Haggan did well to keep out Ryan Newberry’s 36th minute free kick and to deny Gary Brown on the follow-up.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: Steven Hislop’s red card could have been costly to Ards Rangers, yet the numerical disadvantage actually seemed to galvanise them.
David Ferguson: Could have been worse. 6
Gary Brown: Decent pressing at both ends. 6
Marc Roy: Gave his all for the hour he was on. 7
Adam Whitehead: Used his height to good effect. 7
Jamie Patterson: A commanding presence. 8
Steven Hislop: Red card marred an otherwise solid game. 6
Gary McDermott: Made up for earlier misses with extra time strike. 7
Ryan Newberry: Tested the keeper on several occasions. 8
Ricky Rutherford: Top class finishing. 8
Glen Upton: Few clear-cut chances. 6
Simon Moffatt: Held his own. 6
Stephen Boyd: On for McDermott, 99
Jonny Roy: On for M Roy, 61
Chris Watters: Not used
Dean Haggan: Busy as the game went on, some great saves kept the score down. 7
Gary McKee: Dangerous at set pieces. 7
Rob Armstrong: Substituted too early to make major impact. 6
Paul Mathers: No-nonsense defending from the start. 8
Willy Henry: Did his bit in an impressive team display. 6
Stephen Smith: Showed promising forward momentum. 7
Keith Anderson: Plenty of power behind his strikes. 8
Warren Brown: Skillful and inventive. 8
Andrew Kane: Positive in his approach play. 7
Matt McDonald: Took his goal well. 7
Harry Spence: A tenacious display. 7
Neil McKnight: On for Armstrong, 31
Matty Doyle: On for Smith, 70
Alan McCune: On for Spence, 73
Belfast Telegraph Digital