Loughgall earned a hard-fought home win against a dogged Kilmore Rec outfit in their final game ahead of Boxing Day’s Bob Radcliffe Cup final. The Amateur League Premier side pulled back Loughgall’s first-half two-goal advantage however their efforts weren’t helped as they ended the game with only nine men.
Gerard McMahon, standing in for Colin Malone who was scouting Lurgan Celtic, made one change from last week’s win over Chimney Corner bringing in Scott Herron for Adam Rodgers.
The hosts took the lead on the half hour amid vocal protests from Kilmore about whether the ball had crossed the goal line before it was cleared. Rec ‘keeper Michael McKenna dropped Dale Malone’s corner allowing John Guy to side foot the ball goalwards and referee Paul Burns adjudged the ball had crossed the goal line.
The lead was extended six minutes before the break when the ball broke to Mark Carson who, from the edge of the penalty area, hit a wonderful low strike right into the bottom corner beyond McKenna to cap an extremely impressive first-half performance.
Rec pulled a goal back ten minutes after the interval courtesy of ex-Cliftonville forward Mark Holland as he netted an excellent curling 25-yard free kick.
And after hitting the post a minute earlier the visitors grabbed a leveller on 61 minutes when referee Burns adjudged Herron to have handled inside the area. Karl Lewis stepped up and put goalkeeper Gareth Buchanan the wrong way.
Loughgall took a massive step to securing their passage into the next round when they regained the lead and saw their opponents reduced to ten men in the same passage of play in the 67th minute. Dale Malone’s free kick was directed home from close range by Mark Stewart before Kilmore player-manager Gary Kennedy was dismissed for a punch in the resulting aftermath.
Rec missed a huge chance to equalise five minutes later when Malone was harshly adjudged to have edged into Andy Baggley in the penalty area. This time Buchanan was able to deny Lewis from the resultant spot-kick.
Loughgall made sure of the win in injury time when substitute Thai Blevins was upended by Jack Larkin in the penalty area allowing Wesley Boyle the opportunity to calmly slot home from 12 yards.
There was still time for Kilmore Rec to have ‘keeper Michael McKenna shown a straight red card for an extremely late and high challenge on Carson.
Loughgall: Buchanan, Finlay, Brady, Stewart, King (Fox 74m), Carson, Malone (Blevins 84m), Ferguson, Guy (Pedlow 77m), Herron, Boyle. Unused sub: Foster.
Kilmore Rec: McKenna, Cheevers, Miskelly, Kennedy, Larkin, Baggley, Lewis (McDonald 84m), Hardy, Holland, Traynor, Bell. Unused subs: Douglas, McGarrity.