Ireland on the spot for Grange

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WITH the scheduled local derby away to Whitehead Eagles called off, Grange Rangers travelled to face Bangor Young Men in an Amateur League Division 2B fixture on Saturday, and came away with a hard-fought point in a 1-1 draw.

With four enforced changes from last week’s Cup victory over the same opponents, Rangers struggled to get to grips with the game in the early stages, and Joel Loughridge was forced to make a couple of smart saves in the first 15 minutes.

The home team continued to pile on the pressure, and were rewarded on 23 minutes when a cross into the box from the right was palmed away by Loughridge to the feet of a striker, who walked the ball in to the net.

This acted as the wake-up call Rangers needed, and they started to ask questions of the home deence. Twice Chris Bell appeared to be brought down in the box, but the referee was not interested. Then Scott Higgins flashed a shot wide after an excellent cross from Ally McNair, while Chris McGookin stung the keeper’s hands with a fierce drive.

In first half stoppage time, Paul McAllister saw his long-range effort tipped over, and from the resulting corner Bell was again felled, and this time the referee pointed to the spot. Skipper Michael Ireland fired the penalty into the bottom left-hand corner to equalise and leave the teams level at the break.

Early in the second session, the Bangor keeper was busy and kept out efforts from Ireland, Bell and substitute Craig Dyer, while Bell had the ball in the net but the referee had spotted an offsside infringement.

Rangers finished strongly but couldn’t force a winner, with their best effort being a Davy Thompson volley in added time that was brilliantly saved by the keeper, who was named Man of the Match.

Player-manager Paul McAllister said that although this was a good away point, he was disappointed at not being able to bring all three points back to Ballyclare.

On Saturday, Rangers host Rooftop in a league fixture at Foundry Lane.

Grange Rangers: Loughridge; White, McNair, Cooper, McAllister; Mulholland, Thompson, McGookin; Higgins, Bell, Ireland (c). Subs: Dyer, Hunter, McMullan.