Rathfern Rangers twice came from behind before seeing off the brave Steel and Sons Cup challenge of 1c neighbours Kilroot Rec 3-2 after extra time.
Rangers player manager David McCrea admitted: “Kilroot made it hard for us and they gave us all sorts of problems with the big, long kicks from their keeper. It looked set for penalties, which could have been anybody’s game, until Colin Andrews grabbed the winner in the last minute of extra time.”
Kilroot supremo Mervyn Smith thought Rec were “unlucky enough, but not for the first time, we seemed to be hit by second-half syndrome, where we seemed to lose a yard somewhere. Our defending at set pieces wasn’t good, but generally we played rightly, though we were missing the likes of Joel Lough, Aaron Anderson and Thomas Ogilvie, who might just have made the difference”.
Rec opened the scoring on six minutes when one of Dean Haggan’s long clearances was fumbled by opposite number Ken Langley, with Paul Thompson pulling the loose ball back for Andrew Dummigan to slot into the gaping net.
Ten minutes later, however, it was level pegging, when Andrews was the first to react, after David Moore’s initial effort shuddered back off a post.
Kilroot regained the initiative just before the break when Aaron Davies thumped the ball in from just inside the box, after Rathfern failed to decisively deal with a corner.
Rathfern took the tie to extra time, thanks to a classy top-corner finish from player-boss McCrea.
Kilroot thought they won it right on the 90, after Langley had parried Dummigan’s shot into the path of Noel Williams, but referee Jackie McKnight rightly adjudged that the former Whitehead Eagle had strayed into an offside position.
It was Kilroot who had come closest in extra time, when Dummigan’s lofted effort was cleared off the line by Stephen Logan. And the tie looked set for the dreaded shoot out until up popped Andrews right at the death, rifling a Moore pass into the top corner of the net for a spectacular last-gasp winner.
Rathfern face a tough trip to Immaculata in the next round.
Rathfern Rangers; Langley – Montgomery, Logan, G Lovell (C McMurdie), Beggs – Harris (McCrea), N Lovell (Benson), W McMurdie, Cosby – Andrews, Moore.
Kilroot Rec; Haggan – Braiden, Stirling, Hammond, J Thompson (Williams) – Gibb, Davies (K Johnstone), Armstrong, Bingham – Dummigan, P Thompson. Sub (unused) Blaney.
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