TOBERMORE exited the Irish Cup on Saturday after they conceded two goals in extra time against Ballinamallard United. The Mallards will certainly feel aggrieved to have not had this pulsating cup tie wrapped up by half time, but credit must go to the home side who battled well in the second half to force extra time.
The opening stages were dominated by the away side as McCartney and former Man United trainee Curran stole the show. It took the away side only seven minutes to put the ball past Sammy Foster.
The Mallards were dealt a blow in the early stages when Gardiner got away with a bad challenge on Hutchinson. The Tobermore centre midfielder was given a yellow when truth be told it could have been a straight red.
McCartney swung a superb ball into the box and Stafford thundered a header off the bar. The Mallards skipper reacted quickly and nodded past Foster. However, the linesman had already flagged for offside from the original free kick.
The Mallards finally took the lead on fourteen minutes. Curran was played through by Crawford and he hammered past Foster to make it 1-0.
Tobermore managed to finally get out of their own half and created a decent opportunity as Lamont latched onto a Patton flick on but fired wide.
Tobermore left back Millar was struggling to deal with the pace and trickery of Curran and he should have grabbed a second when he was put through on goal again but Foster tipped the ball around the post.
Foster again came to the rescue of the home side when he somehow kept out a header from Feeney. Moments later he denied Crawford from a free kick.
Despite their dominance in the first half, the Mallards could very easily have gone in level at half time. Gardiner worked some space for McClements who saw his drive narrowly go over the cross bar.
The home side were relieved to go into the break only one goal down. The Mallards had dominated the first half and should have been out of sight.
Tobermore started the second half strongly and Millar saw his free kick well saved by McGrath.
The home side soon grabbed an equaliser as McGrath saw his poor kick out drop at the feet of Henneghan who hammered home.
It was an enthralling last twenty minutes as both sides went in search of the winner. Substitute Batista nearly grabbed the winner when he shot straight at McGrath inside the area.
At the other hand McCartney, Carters and Kee were all denied by Foster as the Mallards pushed for the winner.
The two sides could not be separated at full time.
In the early stages Tobermore were dealt a crucial blow. Henneghan clattered into McKenna and a free kick was awarded. Henneghan, who had already been booked, was given a straight red following a heated discussion with the referee.
Despite going down to ten men, the home side continued to defend resolutely. A turning point in the game was the introduction of pacey winger Darren Higginbotham. In the second period of extra time Higginbotham was brought down in the area after good work from Curran. The Mallards winger stepped up and thumped the ball past Foster to make it 2-1, much to the delight of the large travelling support.
Moments later, the away side sealed their place in the next round as Curran crossed for Higginbotham to slide the ball home to make it 3-1.
It was an exhilarating cup tie at Fortwilliam Park and two sides competed well throughout. The Mallards are flying high at the top of the table and it is easy to see why. They played some exquisite football in the first half but credit must go to Johnny Law’s side who battled well in the second half.