Spirited Villagers exit Irish Cup

Thursday, 12 January 2017

RICHHILL AFC saw their Irish Cup adventure end at the fifth round stage as a ruthless Dollingstown FC defeated Neil Rowntree's side at a packed Richhill Recreational Centre.

Richhill AFC ...1
Dollingstown FC ...4

In truth the final scoreline did not reflect just how well Richhill had performed and the home side more than matched their Mid-Ulster Intermediate A opponents for long periods in what was a pulsating cup clash.

The opening stages of the tie saw Dollingstown control possession and they looked dangerous from set-pieces and it looked inevitable that Stephen Uprichard's side would open the scoring.

A short corner routine saw Aaron Moffett wriggle free of his marker at the back post and head past McCartney in the Richhill goal to give the Planters Park side an early lead.

Richhill responded well to falling behind and a booming kick from McCartney caused uncertainty in the Dollingstown defence and Moffett's poor header fell at the feet of Jason Harper, but he lost his balance as he fired a strong left footed drive at goal and it went wide of Croft's right hand upright.

That miss proved costly to Neil Rowntree's side as with 14 minutes on the clock, the 'Dollybirds' doubled their lead.

A ball down the left hand side deceived Ryan Metcalfe at right back and Ritchie Thompson picked out Jack Clark at the back post and the right winger powerfully headed past McCartney to make it 2-0.

Richhill seemed to be overawed by the occasion and the large crowd in attendance and Clark should have grabbed his second and Dollingstown's third with 20 minutes gone.

He pounced on a through ball from Norton, but McCartney was quick to close down the Dollingstown winger and he fired wide of the upright.

Slowly but surely Richhill started to find a foothold in the tie and another long ball into the Dollingstown caused severe problems and Jason Harper pounced on the loose ball, but despite having time to pick his spot, he fired the ball over the bar.

Dollingstown were always a threat on the counter and NI junior international Thompson was a constant threat.

He wriggled free of his marker down the left hand side once again, but his low drive across the box deceived everyone and McHugh scrambled clear at the back post.

Dollingstown went close once again with half an hour on the clock. Keegan made space for himself down the left hand side and cut inside on to his right foot. However, his curling effort ricocheted off the post and Richhill cleared their lines.

Neil Rowntree's side slowly but surely started to find their rhythm and man of the match Andy Moore was winning the battle in the centre of the park.

With 40 minutes on the clock, Moore clipped a clever ball down the right hand side and Adam Nesbitt deceived Moffett and looked like he had been clipped as he stumbled into the box, but Nesbitt continued his run but couldn't find the onrushing Jason Harper at the back post.

The Villagers were now clearly on top and Nesbitt's speculative shot was deflected over the bar and just before the break good work down the left by McHugh and Jason and Ryan Harper, saw the two Harpers link up well on the edge of the area, but Jason Harper's attempt slid wide of the upright.

Whatever was said in the home changing room at the interval seemed to have its desired effect, as the Villagers claimed a priceless goal of their own in the early stages of the second half.

A precise kick from McCartney was flicked on by Nesbitt and Jason Harper pounced onto the loose ball and his low effort caught out Croft at his front post and it was now very much game on!

Richhill were now clearly on top and Dollingstown were struggling to get out of their own half.

With 60 minutes on the clock, Nesbitt was barged into by Moffett inside the box and despite huge appeals from the vociferous Richhill support, referee Dunlop waved away their penalty appeals and the game was stopped for a head injury to the Dollingstown skipper.

Three minutes later another well executed corner kick saw Nicky Finlay find space at the back post, but he mistimed his jump and his attempted header failed to trouble Croft.

On 65 minutes referee Ross Dunlop made a huge decision as Adam Nesbitt was punished for an alleged handball midway into the Dollingstown half.

Not a single Dollingstown player appealed for a handball and supporters from both sides were left bemused by Dunlop's decision as the ball clearly hit Nesbitt on the chest.

From the resulting free-kick Croft's attempted delivery fell short and it fell kindly to the feet of Marty Doherty, who unleashed an outrageous effort from the edge of the centre circle and it rocketed over the towering McCartney and into the top corner to allow the visitors to regain their two goal advantage.

This outstanding goal really knocked the stuffing out of the home side and truth be told they struggled to find a way back into the tie.

Moments later Thompson should have made it 4-1. McCartney was forced to head clear on the edge of the box after a through ball and the ball fell kindly to Harrison, who squared it to Thompson.

However, McCartney was quick to react and he smothered Thompson's shot.

Richhill's best chance of the closing stages fell to Ryan Harper, but his weak effort was well saved by Stephen Croft.

Dollingstown continued to push forward and Thompson linked up with Clark down the right hand side once again, but Clark was denied by a brave stop from McCartney, who injured his ribs in the process of making the save.

With 87 minutes on the clock, Harper had another opportunity to reduce the deficit after good work from left back Andy McHugh, but he fired wide when well placed.

With one of the final phases of play Richhill threw bodies into the box for a corner, but Thompson scrambled the ball clear at the back post and Gregg Harrison raced through on goal, where he rounded McCartney and rolled the ball into the back of the empty net to make it 4-1 to Stephen Uprichard's side.

4-1 was a very harsh scoreline in what was a committed performance by Neil Rowntree's side. It was an occasion that the club and indeed the village is going to remember for a long time.

Chairman Neil Megaw confirmed after the game that over 450 spectators had gone through the turnstiles at the ground and credit must go to the club for their incredible work in preparing the ground for this historic clash.

In the end Dollingstown's superior firepower proved pivotal as they secured a place in the sixth round and a visit to Dungannon Swifts on Saturday, February 4.

For Richhill AFC and manager Neil Rowntree, their attentions will now turn to the league, starting this Saturday as they welcome fierce rivals Markethill Swifts to the Richhill Rec for a league game.


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