Ennniskillen Rangers 2 Lisbellaw United 1 Junior Cup finalists Enniskillen Rangers came from a goal down to all but end Lisbellaw United’s hopes of retaining the Mercer League on Saturday.
It was always going to be a tough ask for Andy Reilly’s charges to hold on to their crown as they had to take maximum points from their final four games including two games against league leaders Strathroy Harps and two against Rangers to guarantee that they would end up as champions.
Now they are relying on Strathroy slipping up and even at that they then have to go and take advantage of it by not faltering any more over the remainder of the campaign.
Lisbellaw though have been able to dig out results this season and have been on an impressive run ever since losing their opening two games of the season. They had gone 16 games unbeaten in the league, including 14 wins to get themselves right back into the title mix, and they maybe felt that they were on their way to another win on Saturday after Sam Lindsay had put them into the lead in the first half.
However, Rangers boss Michael Kerr changed his side’s formation at the break and they went on to control matters in the second half.
Joe Doogan tucked home from close range to level up proceedings and Willie Burleigh sealed the victory with a goal worthy of winning any game, the midfielder rifling home from 25 yards to give the ‘Gers the points.
And it was a win that pleased Kerr as they ramp up their preparations for a meeting with Hill Street in the Junior Cup final at Windsor Park on May 1.
“I thought we were the better side and we deserved the win,” said Kerr.
“The work rate was there as it always is and I thought we showed a wee bit of quality but the most pleasing thing for me was the character that we showed.
“It was good to see us battle back from 1-0 down at half time to go on and win, especially against a good side like Lisbellaw who have been on a great run.
“You also want to be going into the final on the back of some good results and that was a good result on Saturday.”
The first half saw little in the way of clear cut chances although Alan Veitch did have the chance to put Lisbellaw ahead but he fired over from 12 yards while Rangers best chance fell to Stuart Rainey at the back post but he could not convert.
It was the visitors though who were to go on and take the lead on the half hour mark.
Alan Veitch outpaced Neil Coulter to get a shot in at goal and although it was saved by Jerome Carleton in the Rangers goal, the ball spilled out to Lindsay who tucked it into the net from 20 yards to give the ‘Law the lead at half time.
Kerr made changes at the interval with Jordan Cadden and Mattie Chambers coming into the side while they also switched to a more familiar 4-3-3 system.
And the home side were more of a threat on the resumption with Mark Cutler and Stuart Rainey causing problems down either flank.
Rangers equalised when Kerr got on the end of Cadden free kick and although his effort was saved by Willie McFrederick, Doogan slotted home from the ensuing goalmouth scramble.
The home side then pushed on for the win and Rainey teed up Burleigh who unleashed an unstoppable 25 yard thunderbolt that crashed off the underside of the crossbar and down before bouncing into the roof of the net.
Lisbellaw did go in search of an equaliser but Rangers stood firm at the back as they held on for the points and in doing so put a massive dent in Lisbellaw’s hopes of keeping a grip on the Mercer League.