Bangor 0 Larne 5
Ronan Hale reminded everyone of his scoring prowess at just the right time by hitting FOUR goals to ease Larne into the second round of the Irish Cup.
Hale was on song against Bangor at Clandeboye Park as last year’s beaten finalists ran out 5-0 winners ahead of their County Antrim Shield Final against Linfield on Tuesday.
The comfortable victory sets up a repeat of last season’s decider — this time at Inver Park — in the next round.
Afterwards, Larne boss Tiernan Lynch saluted his side’s approach as they made it three wins on the bounce.
“Coming into the game, you’re always wary of a potential banana skin,” he said.
“The early goal settled us down and the pitch let us play the football we wanted to and it was very professional.
“We know what Ronan can do. You give him chances and he’ll score goals. I was delighted with the hunger he showed.”
Lynch made six changes to his starting XI for the trip, including handing a first start of the season to teenage right-back Max Greer.
However, it was a veteran who helped to set Larne on their way after just four minutes.
Defender Albert Watson played an inch-perfect pass up the right flank for Andy Scott to race onto and the little winger produced a tidy dink over Matthew Anderson from a tight angle inside the box.
The Invermen doubled their lead from the penalty spot with 18 minutes gone. Dean Jarvis went down under a challenge from Ryan Arthur and referee Declan Hassan pointed to the spot.
Hale stepped up to slot into the bottom corner, sending Anderson the wrong way.
Hale grabbed his second of the day to make it 3-0 on 31 minutes. Scott was again involved with an excellent lofted pass to put Hale behind the Bangor rearguard. The striker coolly brought the ball down with one touch and lobbed home with the next.
He completed his hat-trick 12 minutes into the second half after more good work from Scott, who won a corner on the left flank before playing a one-two and crossing for Hale to nod home at the back post.
A number of subs from both sides followed but it was the man at the centre of attention all afternoon who rounded off the scoring.
Another long ball caught Bangor out as Hale kept himself onside to lob Anderson from the angle of the penalty area and claim his fourth of the day with four minutes left.
Bangor boss Lee Feeney paid tribute to the high-flying visitors after seeing his side in competitive action for the first time in almost a month.
“We came into this game knowing it was a tough task to win the game,” Feeney
“They were in the Final last year and they’ve been picking up some great results.
“So it was always going to be a tough ask but I was delighted with the attitude of the players.
“You always want to keep it 0-0 for as long as you can, even if it goes 1-0 as long as you can, but to concede a poor goal after four minutes was disheartening but that was probably down to a bit of rustiness having not played in a few weeks.
“At the end of the day, our players got to see what it takes to make a career in football against a really top side.”
BANGOR: Anderson 7, Beattie 6 (Hume, 79 mins, 5), Neale 6, Doey 6, Arthur 6, Harrison 6 (Devine, 66 mins, 5), Storey 6 (Halliday, 66 mins, 6), Cooling 6, Arthurs 6, Woods 6 (Upritchard, 58 mins, 5), Glover 7 (Fletcher, 79 mins, 6). Unused subs: Gibbons, Wasson.
Ferguson 7, Kelly 7, Watson 7, Sule 7 (Herron, 62 mins, 6), Nasseri 7 (Lynch, 46 mins, 7), Randall 7 (McDaid, 62 mins, 6), Hale 9, Scott 8, Bolger 7, Jarvis 8, Greer 7 (Doherty, 62 mins, 7). Unused subs: Argyrides, Mitchell, Cosgrove
Declan Hassan 7