Our Reserves and league leaders Rathfriland Rangers battled out a 1:1 draw on Saturday, it what was a highly entertaining game, and a showcase of the level of quality in the Reserve Championship this season.
Riling from their defeat at Iveagh Park earlier in the season, Dtown were determined to make amends and started the game brightly, with Duffy creating the first opening after some excellent build up driven by Houston and Wright, with Duffy’s effort going marginally wide.
Rathfriland remained very strong and well organised, and it became apparent in the opening minutes that this would be a tight game, and as the half progressed, the visitors started to get a foothold and created several half chances, without really troubling Robinson in the home goal.
On the half hour mark, Rathfriland showed their class and typified the setup Coulter is building. Midfielder Adair was awarded a freekick on the edge of the box in a very dangerous area for the visitors. Dtown protested the freekick which was duly awarded, however, Adair got to his feet and clarified there was no contact and that the freekick was in incorrect decision. Already whistled, it stood, but Coulter stepped forward from defence and blasted the set piece out of play for a goal kick. Great sportsmanship, especially given the enormity of the game.
Minutes later Dtown were dealt another blow, when midfielder Allen collapsed unopposed with a bad knee injury and was replaced by A Denver.
The first half continued in a similar manner, with both defences on top and despite a half chance from a corner for the hosts, neither keeper was overly worked as we entered half time.
Half Time 0:0
Rathfriland had lined up a 4-3-3 and were dominant in the first half centrally, so the message at half time was for Dtown to utilise the width, and to their credit, in the opening minutes of the second half, this width allowed for several decent chances and Dtown started to dominate possession. Duffy was the architect for a decent chance for lively McCluskey and it was Duffy himself who came closest, with his acrobatic overhead kick narrowly missing the target.
Despite Dtown dominating possession in advanced areas, Rathfriland remained very dangerous on the break, and the end to end manner of the game continued with the visitors #7 very lively and on the hour mark, Rathfriland took the lead. The evergreen Adair was the architect who linked beautifully with the Rangers wide man, who finished excellently from a tight angle.
Such is the character in this Dtown side, and with time on their side, there was no sense of panic. Frustrated at conceding, skipper Wright rallied his troops and within 5 minutes, Dtown were level. The physicality of Houston and Denver fed McCluskey on the half way line, who showed great composure to feed Mitchell who prodded home from 20 yards – for a fully deserved equaliser.
The closing periods were tight, with the visitors once again posing problems and were awarded several dangerous freekicks at the game came to a finish, and in the final minutes Dtown amost stole the victory.
With both teams pushing for a winner, Dtown broke with McCluskey who delivered seeking Mitchell, but an excellent last ditch block from the centre half intercepted, and spiralled goalwards, narrowly going over the bar. Whilst it would have been gratefully received, such an unfortunate goal would have been very harsh on the visitors.
Full Time 1:1
Both sides came to Planters to take the win, and both will have thought they did enough to take the 3 points, however both unanimously agreed that a draw was the correct result.
The referees assessment was that it was a superb game, but neither goalkeeper was worked as much as would have been liked, and this is testament to the defensive display both sides showed
Overall, a well-earned and vital point for the Reserves, and once again, despite being up against it against a mature Rathfriland team, the Reserves showed great character to get themselves back into the game.
We wish Rathfriland well for the remainder of the season.
Squad: Robinson, King, Harrison, M Denver, Duffy, Houston, Wright, Allen, Bennett, Mitchell, McCluskey, A Denver, S Armstrong, E Taylor, R Taylor, N Forsythe
MOTM: Adam Harrison