Larne 2 – 2 Loughgall

Loughgall claimed a valuable point on the road against a newly-strengthened Larne side that contained four debutants following January transfer window business.

Warner Mullen had put the Villagers in a commanding position of two goals ahead after half an hour however Larne battled back extremely well, and the hosts could easily have taken all three points if it wasn’t for the heroics of goalkeeper Gareth Buchanan.

Both sides had good chances inside the opening ten minutes of the game; Scott Irvine threatened for Larne from outside the penalty area, while Warner Mullen tested new Larne ‘keeper Billy Brennan with a low shot from 10 yards shortly after.

Mullen netted a special opening goal in the 14th minute when a neat one-two with strike partner Daniel Ryan allowed the former time to beautifully curl the ball into the top corner from outside the penalty area.

Loughgall doubled their advantage from the penalty spot after referee Stephen Wallace adjudged Colin Nixon to have fouled Ryan inside the penalty area. Mullen stepped up and sent Brennan the wrong way to score his 20th goal of the season and his 9th goal in 6 games since the turn of the year.

Larne missed a big chance to pull a goal back on 34 minutes when Paul Maguire found space in the penalty area however the captain dragged his effort across goal when he should have hit the target.

Striker Maguire made amends and grabbed an important goal before the break for the Invermen when he fired home from close range following a goalmouth scramble.

The score line was almost level on the stroke of half-time however Loughgall had Marcus Dallas to thank when he headed off the goal line to deny Stuart McMullan’s headed effort.

Larne continued their pressure in the second half in search of an equaliser and they came close through Maguire and Ciaran Murray however they couldn’t find a way past ‘keeper Buchanan.

Loughgall still looked dangerous on the counter attack and almost restored their two-goal cushion when Ryan’s fierce shot was tipped onto the post by ‘keeper Brennan on the hour mark.

The home side finally pulled level in the 73rd minute when substitute Guillaume Keke headed home a rebound from close range after ‘keeper Buchanan initially denied Murray with a great point-blank save.

Larne had the best chance of both sides to nick all three points with 11 minutes remaining however Buchanan again denied striker Murray with a smart low save.

Larne: Brennan, Bradley, Calvert, Haughey, Nixon, McMullan, Irvine (McGrandles 62), Murray, Maguire, McIlveen, Robinson (Keke 40). Unused subs: Rodgers, Donnelly, McCabe.

Loughgall: Buchanan, Taylor, Mallen (Carson 68m), Copeland, Hudson, Walsh (Henderson 79m), Ferguson (Drylie 68m), Dallas, Mullen, Ryan, Rea. Unused subs: Boyle, Dane.

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