Armagh Rovers 2:2 Dollingstown Res (Dtown win 4.3 on penalties) Mid Ulster Shield
For the second consecutive week, our Reserves faced first team opposition, this time in the Mid Ulster Shield, against a strong and capable Armagh Rovers at Ardmore.
The anomaly of the Shield meant neither side had met previously but Dtown were aware of the recent stature of Rovers, competing in Div 1 until recently, and having won the league and 4 cups last year in the Lonsdale league.
On the back of the excellent team performance in the previous week, Dtown named an unchanged team apart from two enforced changes and began the game in a similar containing manner.
However, after 10 minutes Dtown re-shuffled their formation with a view to pressing higher, and got their rewards almost immediately when, following a cross from the right, Bennett was able to swivel and finish from 15 yards to give Dtown an early lead.
Rovers were threatening with pace and remained so all afternoon, and it was this pace from their right winger that drew a foul 25 yards out, subsequently headed home excellently by their commanding centre half, to level the score, that on the balance of chances created was fair.
The game ebbed and flowed for the next 20 minutes, with Dtown dominating possession and creating several half changes, with Ewins hitting the post and Armstrong’s wayward follow up blocked, as Dtown began to exert pressure. However, frequently Rovers were allowed the space to break and Croft was called on, on several occasions to be prompt and alert to keep the scores level. In the final 15 minutes of the first half, Dtown got their rewards for some fine pressure when striker Ewins rounded the goalkeeper, unselfishly squaring to captain Wright for a tap in to restore the lead.
This seemingly looked like the catalyst for Dtown to control the game, but credit to Rovers, their counter attack play posed problems all afternoon, and once again, their right winger was the architect for their equaliser on half time, as he weaved too easily around two challenges before releasing for a 5 yard finish leaving Croft no chance.
Half Time 2:2
The second half saw much of the same with Dtown dominating possession, but in truth struggling to break down a resilient back line and lacking creativity and sharpness to expose the home side, and were reliant on a fantastic save from Croft to deny the counter-attacking Rovers from edging ahead. In the last minute of normal time, Wright met a volley perfectly from 10yards, only to be superbly saved from MotM Graham in the Rovers net, who consistently denied Dtown.
Full Time 2:2
Extra time had seemed inevitable and on the balance of chances missed, it seemed it would be one of those days for Dtown who despite entirely dominating the extra time period, laboured to create that golden chance that would seal the win. Armstrong hit the post from range, with the rebound striking the goalkeeper and settling in his arms, and despite the energy of R Taylor and J Irwin, Dtown could not muster the chance to win the game outright. Onto Penalties
Penalties: S Wright, M Duffy, S Armstrong and D Bennett all scored, N Forsythe effort excellently saved. Croft made an important stop at 3.3 before Rovers missed their final effort.
Full Time (AET) 2:2 Dtown win 4.3 on penalties
Overall, a laboured performance against a rugged and resolute Rovers side. Despite dominating possession, Dtown will need to be conscious of two lapses in concentration letting the home side back into the game, and must discover their fluidity that has served them well to date.
Many thanks to Armagh Rovers for a competitive game, where a draw seemed absolutely the fair result, and for the hospitality and food after. Best of luck for your season ahead.
Squad: Croft, Hill, Cartwright, Forsythe, Armstrong, Houston, E Taylor, Wright, Allen, Bennett, A Ewins, Duffy, Irwin, D Ewins, Branker, R Taylor