Bangor Rangers keep cup fever alive as they send Annalong Swifts out of Junior Shield
Bangor Rangers manager Stuart Lally has insisted a run in the Junior Shield can return some feel-good factor back to the club, after they reached the third round with a gutsy win over Annalong Swifts on Saturday.
The manner of the victory may have caused Lally and his backroom team of Gavin Martin, Craig Bridges and John Stevenson some concern, having let their Newcastle & District League opponents back into the game after surging into a two-goal lead within the first 20 minutes.
Yet for a team still coming to terms with their drop from intermediate football just three years ago, and more recently, their relegation to this season’s Division 2B of the Amateur League, the result is what matters most, and in the end, a game they just about deserved to win.
Lally said: “Our work-rate was brilliant to start with, but then we ran out of steam. But a win’s a win at the end of the day…
“I think we need to work on our mentality. We’re good at getting ourselves in front, but we seem to let the other team in. It was the same thing last week – we were 2-0 up, but ended up edging out a 4-3 win.
“I’m not saying we are going to win the Junior Shield, by any stretch, but if we can get a run together – which I think we can – it would be great for the club. If we can bring that form into the league, even better.”
All the early pressure came from the home side, and at one stage, it was fair to say it was all one-way traffic.
Annalong goalkeeper David Fitzpatrick was called into action to tip over from a powerful Mark Tulson effort, while Craig O’Neill’s touch from a Tulson was too heavy and Stephen Willis glanced a header from an excellent O’Neill cross just wide.
Given this initial dominance, it was no surprise when Rangers took a 16th minute lead – Tulson rolling the ball to Jonny Miller at the back post for a simple tap-in.
What may have even taken the hosts themselves unawares, however, was the fact they managed to double this lead only a minute later. The positive-thinking Tulson was involved yet again, but with his effort saved by Fitzpatrick, it was up to Willis to charge in and smash in Rangers’ second in quick succession.
Keen to hit back as soon as possible, Annalong gave home keeper William Close his first work of the day in the 23rd minute, as he reacted quickly to come out and claim the ball, just as Alan Hemming looked to have played Mark Newell through for a sure-fire goal.
Bangor could well have scored again before the break, as a Courtney Marsh shot was saved, O’Neill blasted over, and a cross-shot from Miller whizzed inches past the far post.
So too, however could have Annalong, as William Forsythe got an outstretched foot to Stephen Burden’s low cross, but his connection was too faint, as the ball drifted across the face of goal.
The second half was a completely different story, with Annalong now having the lion’s share of possession and chances.
In a five minute spell, Richard Gordon’s shot may have gone straight to the keeper, Matthew McConnell’s shot well over, and Stephen Burden’s close-range effort tipped over, yet the pleasing thing for the away side was that they were now finding space in dangerous positions.
Yet it was increasingly looking as if they may not find the net – especially when, in the 64th minute, William Forsythe collected a Stephen Burden square-ball to completely scuff a shot wide of the mark, and even more so, in the 68th minute, when Stephen Burden recovered himself after being brought down by Paul Moffett in the box to send the resultant penalty shuddering off the base of the left post.
Eager to make up for the disappointment of that missed spot-kick, though, Burden redeemed himself by capitalising on Rangers’ failure to clear from an Annalong attack, keeping his cool to slot his side back into the game.
Despite this, it did look as though Rangers had killed the game off in the 89th minute, when Marsh robbed an Annalong defender of the ball just over the halfway line, then could not be caught, as he powered his way to the edge of the box, where he curled a lovely finish beyond Fitzpatrick's reaches.
And while Burden showed relentless energy to chase down a second goal for his team in the second minute of injury time, that was where the scoring ended.
Nevertheless, the was little disappointment from losing player-manager Alan Henning, who is enjoying his first season in charge of the club currently occupying third place in the Newcastle & District Premier League, with games in hand over top two, Killough and Mourne Rovers.
“We always knew it was going to be tough coming here to play a strong Amateur League side, especially on a 3G pitch,” he said.
“I thought we were outstanding in the second half, and really took the game to them. We gave ourselves a chance, and I think we can leave here with our heads held high.”
MAN OF THE MATCH: Mark Tulson (Bangor Rangers). So active in the final third.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Even though Stephen Burden’s second goal was ineffective in terms of the final outcome, Annalong deserved it for their second half approach.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: William Close’s save from the feet of Mark Newell in the 23rd minute.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: Stephen Burden hitting the post from the penalty spot – but he more than made up for this with a brace afterwards.
William Close: A reasonable outing. 6
Andy McIlveen: Did everything asked of him. 7
Jonny Miller: An intelligent performance at both ends. 8
Paul Moffett: Penalty conceded his only glitch. 6
Brent Howell: Commanded the back line with authority. 7
Michael Hunter: Always made himself available. 7
Courtney Marsh: Work-rate second to none. 7
Darryl Brown: A decent display. 6
Mark Tulson: Great positioning throughout. 8
Stephen Willis: Kept digging in. 8
Craig O’Neill: Chased down every loose ball. 7
Adam Murray: On for Tulson, 87
John McGaghey: On for Brown, 72
Mason McClure: On for O’Neill, 70
David Fitzpatrick: Three goals conceded is never a great day. 6
Alan Hemming: Got the ball forward well. 7
William Ochiltree: Held his own at the back. 6
Gareth Graham: Some superb tackles put in. 8
Peter Heelham: Drifted in and out of the game. 6
Richard Gordon: Looked comfortable on the ball. 7
Mark Newell: Played his part in a decent fight-back. 7
Matthew McConnell: Plenty of effort in the second half. 7
Gregory Forsythe: Final ball let him down on a few occasions. 6
William Forsythe: Lively in the final third. 7
Stephen Burden: Made a real difference and deserved his brace. 8
Ryan Burden: On for Gordon, 82
Timothy Burden: Not used.