Rossvale 1 Benburb 1; Late strike levels top of the table clash

Liam McGonigle celebrates (above) after his equaliser (right). Pic by Helen Templeton/@dibsy_
Liam McGonigle celebrates (above) after his equaliser (right). Pic by Helen Templeton/@dibsy_

Rossvale remain top of the Central First Division after a hard-fought draw with closest challengers Benburb at New Huntershill.

A fantastic free-kick from the Liam McGonigle earned Vale the point at New Huntershill which kept them two points clear of Bens with 10 games to play.

In a first half which was wasted by the terrible wintry conditions, it was Benburb who came out on top from a goal from ex-Forth player Wullie McLaren in the 20th minute who found himself unmarked inside the Vale’s box to curl in a left footer beyond Jamie Donnelly.

The game up until then was mainly played in the Rossvale half of the park as Bens took full advantage of the conditions to pile the pressure on the league leaders.

Jamie Hunter was very unfortunate not to pull a goal back in the 30th minute when he got onto the end of a McGonigle cross but could only see his effort cleared upfield.

It found McLaren in the middle of the park and after beating a couple of players his final shot was poor and cleared.

But immediately Ryan McCrone powered down the wing and cut in on goal only for a fine save from Donnelly with his feet to keep the score the same and when the ball broke to Ryan Livingston he somehow missed from under the bar, much to the ‘Vale’s relief.

In the second half Bens almost scored right away when again Livingston missed another sitter in front of an open goal.

But Rossvale were starting to make roads into the game and came close when they won a free-kick just outside the box and a short pass between McGonigle and Gary Giffin set up Kirk Forbes who saw his shot go narrowly .

Then a fine piece of team work down the right resulted in a McGonigle shot going narrowly over.

Rossvale again missed an easy chance a minute later when a lovely move between Hunter and Giffin to McGonigle again saw his final shot go narrowly past.

Rossvale were starting to put the pressure onto the Bens defence and found themselves with five forwards going for the equaliser.

But they nearly got caught out when Livingston got on end of a long punt to test Donnelly but the big keeper was able to push his shot out for a corner.

With Stephen McGladrigan now on the field for the Vale, he found Hunter whose shot again went past and then in the reverse a minute later Hunter fired in an excellent cross to McGladrigan and from a couple of yards out he couldn’t get on to the end of it and the ball went out for a goal kick.

But just two minutes from the end, as it looked as if the game was going out of Vale’s reach, they won a free kick 20 yards out and McGonigle hit a wonder strike through a big Bens wall and into the bottom left hand corner to equalise.

Possibly taking all the misses from both sides a draw was the correct score but it is a better result for the leaders than Benburb who have a harder run in to the end of the season.

Next weekend Rossvale are away to Greenock which again is a must win to keep ahead of the pack.