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Soccer: In form Rangers make surprise exit

ON THE MOVE...Jarno Glass looks goalwards as the Tummery defence close in

ON THE MOVE…Jarno Glass looks goalwards as the Tummery defence close in

Enniskillen Rangers 0
Tummery Athletic 0
(Tummery won 4-3 on penalties)

CUP specialists Tummery Athletic squeezed into the semi-finals of the Mulhern Cup after holding their nerve in a dramatic penalty shootout at the Lakeland Forum on Saturday.

Neither side could produce a goal during 110 gripping minutes of cup football, although Sean Keenan and Jarno Glass both went close for Rangers by hitting the woodwork in the second half.

Athletic, without top goalscorer Ryan Cunningham who was suspended, duly survived and during the penalty drama the Dromore men showed nerves of steel as Blaine Campbell, Declan Molloy, Paul McCusker and Enda Ferris all converted for the visitors to emerge 4-2 victors.

This last-eight decider was predicted to go right down to the proverbial wire although it was relegation-threatened Tummery who, somewhat surprisingly, made the early running against a Rangers team that hadn’t been beaten since December.

Early doors the Dromore men certainly enjoyed the lion’s share of possession although tangible goalscoring opportunities remained at a premium, the visitors’ best opportunity falling to Ronan McNabb who flashed a shot over the crossbar after excellent approach play by Gerard McCullagh and Enda Ferris.

In the second half Rangers turned the tables and in the final quarter can count themselves extremely unlucky after a Keenan pile-driver cannoned back off James Colgan’s left post and Glass shuddered the visiting crossbar.

With extra-time looming large Athletic almost snatched a winner themselves, Ferris heading a Stephen Fitzpatrick cross straight at goalkeeper Garcia, who right at the death dived full stretch to his left to keep out Ruairi Sludden’s stunning 25-yard free kick.

Extra-time, too, failed to produce an outright winner, Garcia again denying Ferris who took one touch too many in controlling a cross from replacement Paul McCusker.

In the nerve-jangling shootout Campbell, Molloy, McCusker and Ferris all confidently converted while Rangers’ Brendan Rodgers ballooned over the bar before Colgan saved to send Tummery through.

“We’re hugely disappointed,” said Rangers boss Gordon Cutler afterwards.

“We haven’t been beaten since December but I have no complaints. Tummery were well organised and were the dominant team in the first half.

“We responded and played well in the second half.  We dominated but twice were denied by the woodwork. Extra-time followed a similar pattern, we were pushing pushing pushing but couldn’t get the breakthrough.

“Overall bitterly disappointed but no complaints.”

Tummery midfielder Gerard McCullagh said it was good to be in another semi-final.

“It’s good to be involved in the latter stages, it keeps the season alive. We’ve a good record in the competition although in recent years we have fallen at the final hurdle.

“Today’s game was one of few chances.”

With both sides missing key players this tie had draw written all over it. Rangers have been the form team in Division One since the turn of the year but Athletic always produce their best in the Mulhern Cup.

Something had to give and it was no surprise that the outcome would ultimately be decided in the lottery of penalties.

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