Lisbellaw United 2 NFC Kesh 3

Kesh scored three late goals to come from two down to defeat Lisbellaw and keep their dreams of a first ever Mercer League title alive.

Their title challenge looked to be ending at Drumad as they trailed 2-0 in the 84th minute, but goals from Ryan Campbell, Danny Wilson and Nigel Beacom in the closing moments completed a dramatic fightback and lifted them to within one point of leaders Enniskillen Rangers with one game remaining.

“We looked dead and buried,” admitted Kesh manager Ryan Campbell.

“We looked as if it was going to be one of those days when it wouldn’t go in for us, but finally we got the breakthrough and our first goal sparked us into gear. At 1-0 we needed a reaction but we never got it. I gave out a bit at half time and read the riot act because we weren’t doing enough to win the game, and at 2-0 down I thought it was not meant to be, but we rallied and after I got a header it was two moments of quality with two brilliant headers from Danny Wilson and Nigel Beacom from two great set plays from Lee Walker.”

Kesh’s final game is against Tummery Athletic on Saturday, with Campbell hoping they can win and keep the pressure on Enniskillen Rangers.

“We know it will be no easy task against Tummery,” he acknowledged.

“It’s still in their hands too, but all we can hope for is to win our last two and go two ahead of Rangers. They have a tough game to come against Tummery, and that could go either way, so all we can do is turn up against Tummery and get three points, and then wait and see.”

On Saturday Lisbellaw had maintained their pursuit of fourth place with a 4-0 victory away to Strathroy Harps.

The away side scored all four goals in a frantic 11-minute spell just after half time, with Paul Elliott scoring two and Paul McGrath and Scott Moutray also finding the net.

They looked to be following that up with another victory over Kesh before the visitors staged a late recovery.

“We were undone by three set pieces and three headers towards the end of the game, after being so comfortable for 75 minutes,” said Lisbellaw manager Kyle McCleery.

“Once they got it back to 2-1 their tails were up and they were pushing. It was disappointing that we couldn’t defend set pieces. It is something so basic and something we had done so well up until that stage of the game. We fell apart. It was a bit of a crazy game.”

A fourth-place finish remains Lisbellaw’s target, and they will secure that if they can beat Magheraveely in their final game.

“That would be a good improvement on the last couple of seasons,” said McCleery. “We have had some good results lately and we are playing good football and scoring a lot of goals. We just need to cut out the silly mistakes. I’m happy with our progress lately and hopefully, we can finish on a positive note on Saturday and break into the top four.”

Kesh went into the game having won only one of their last five games, but they made a bright start and Campbell had a shot saved by Josh Brownlee before Ryan Beattie scuffed a shot when well placed. Sam Robb also had a header ruled out for offside, but as the half progressed Lisbellaw got a foothold in the game, and they scored the first goal after 25 minutes when Paul McGrath’s shot was deflected past TJ McMulkin.

Sam Lindsay then crashed a shot off the inside of the post, but Lisbellaw did add a second ten minutes into the second half when Philip Beacom’s front post diving header deflected Moutray’s corner past the keeper.

James Taylor had a chance to make it three but he failed to beat the keeper when put through on goal, and Kesh took full advantage of the let-off.

The comeback started when Campbell reacted quickest to Grant Ellis’ flick on coming back off the post to head past Josh Brownlee, and Danny Wilson rose to head in a corner in the 89th minute.

A minute into added time the comeback was complete when Nigel Beacom netted his first goal of the season, heading in from Lee Walker’s corner.