Bangor reign at top continues; Randalstown nick key win over Rainey

Bangor stay top of the Ulster Premier League after a hard-fought 2-1 over Kirk Cup champions Kilkeel at the Aurora Complex on Saturday in the battle of the Ulster cup winners.

The seasiders’ victory completed a memorable week for Scott Parker’s men, who had lifted the Linden Cup with a 5-0 win over Raphoe on Monday. Both teams had their chances in the first half but Bangor produced the more clear-cut opportunities and penalty-corners to warrant their 1-0 half-time lead from a Ryan Burgess drag flick.

Bangor following their Linden Cup win.

The second half was sloppy from both sides and Kilkeel grabbed an equaliser from a Bangor defensive error on the right-hand side of the pitch early on. Five minutes after the break, Eddie Agnew tapped the ball home following a block by the home goalkeeper to square the match.

Bangor, however, managed to break away with nine minutes left and Michael McComb’s cross which deflected in off a Kilkeel defender’s stick for the winner.

“I thought we played well in the first half and deserved our half-time lead.” said Bangor coach Parker.

“The second half was tough and Kilkeel caused us problems but I always felt we had the pace up top to hurt them and we got that important second goal from Michael. I’m delighted with the win and all credit goes to the guys who have worked so hard recently to keep this good form going.”

Elsewhere, Instonians kept the pressure on Bangor with a comfortable 4-0 win over Cliftonville. Penalty-corner expert William Robinson scored twice in the game at Shaw’s Bridge and the result keeps Inst them two points off the pace but with the benefit of a game in hand.

Civil Service came from 3-1 down to beat Newry 5-4 at Stormont, Queen’s continued their impressive run with a 5-2 win at Antrim while North Down beat Raphoe 3-0 in Donegal.

Only one women’s Ulster Premier League game survived the frost as Randalstown edged closer to safety following a 2-1 win over Rainey in Antrim. Town survived a late Rainey onslaught to hang on for the win over the Magherafelt side.

It was a crucial win for the Co Antrim team, who have moved further clear of the drop-zone while Rainey remain in trouble in the bottom half of the table.

Richie McGaw’s side are just two points ahead of basement side Portadown, who now have two games in hand. It’s been a tough baptism in the top-flight for Rainey, who have won just once in their 10 outings to date since securing promotion last season. However, they were a tad unfortunate not to have taken something from the game.

Randalstown coach Harry McNeill admitted: “While we had the edge in the first-half, they dominated the second and probably deserved more than what they got from the game.”

“From our own point of view, it was a vitally important result as we are now six points clear of the relegation-zone. It’s been a tough season so far for what is essentially a very young squad and we had two 15-year-olds in our team for the game.”

Town got off to a dream start when Ulster Under 18 star Holly Taggart set up Sharon Graham for the opener after only three minutes. Only 10 minutes later, it was 2-0 as CJ McDonald drove into the circle after a brilliant run and fired home an unstoppable shot.

Randalstown recorded an important win over Rainey.

However, Rainey pulled one back two minutes after the break when, after forcing a barrage of penalty-corners, Alex Burns’ shot was deflected into the net by Charlotte Beggs. Rainey went on to dominate proceedings for the remainder of the game but Town keeper Laura Chestnut stopped everything that came her way.

In Senior One, Lisnagarvey made it eight wins on the bounce as goals from Sarah Colgan, Jenna McQueen, Laura Gamble and Amy Brown gave them a 4-0 victory over Omagh at Comber Road. Ballymena stay five points behind in second after Rebekah Reynolds scored twice in a 5-2 win over CI while there were also victories for Armagh and Priorians.

The top-scorer of the day across both the men’s and women’s programmes was Emma Allen, who hit four for Priorians in their 6-1 win over Victorians. Armagh’s recent revival continued as two goals from Jemima Stevenson and one from Karen Nesbitt earned them a 3-0 victory over Knock at Ardmore.

Ulster Premier League: Raphoe 0 North Down 3 (J Clarke, G McKeown, P Wilson); NICS 4 (E Whittington, D Bradley, R Anderson, C Bannister) Newry Olympic 3 (R Irwin, A Irwin, D England); Instonians 4 (W Robinson 2, J Palmer, S Kelso) Cliftonville 0; Antrim 2 (L Kane, T Allen) Queen’s 5 (C Anderson 2, R Wolsely, F Harkins, A Doyle); Bangor 2 (R Burgess, M McCombe) Kilkeel 1 (E Agnew)

Ulster Premier League: Randalstown 2 (S Graham, CJ McDonald) Rainey 1 (C Beggs)

Senior One: Armagh 3 (K Nesbitt, J Stevenson 2) Knock 0; CI 2 (L Ternahan, L Mercer) Ballymena 5 (C Gillespie, R Reynolds 2, C McCracken, K Young); Lisnagarvey 4 (S Colgan, J McQueen, L Gamble, A Brown) Omagh 0; Priorians 6 (E Allen 4, J Kennedy, A O’Neill) Victorians 1 (R Hewitt).

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