Down High advance to last 16 after extra time

Down High advance to last 16 after extra time

1 December 2021

DOWN High’s footballers dug deep to progress to the last 16 of the NISFA U-18 Plate after defeating Omagh Academy 5-3 in extra-time. 

Both teams engaged in a battle of wills, skills and great football, leaving those watching just as breathless as the players themselves. 

In a game played in clear but chilly conditions in Omagh, the sides were level three times, with goals galore and plenty of tense moments. 

Fifteen minutes into the game, a Caolan Lennon free-kick was caught perfectly on the volley by Matthew Robinson, with his fine first-time strike opening Down High’s account. 

However, in what proved to be the recurring pattern of the game, the Downpatrick boys retreated into their shelves and Omagh Academy were soon level. 

The roles were soon reversed once more, when an error in the home defence saw a penalty awarded for handball, granting Down High an avenue back into the game. The resulting spot kick was coolly dispatched again by Robinson. 

At the beginning of the second half Omagh pulled level again and the sidelines were a hive of activity, with changes being rung by both sides. 

Left-back Jack Kelly delivered a deep cross into the Omagh box and the hardworking Tom Crudington recycled it out to Calam Mulqueen, who made no mistake when called upon to put Down High 3-2 ahead with the clock running low. 

But once again Down High became complacent as Omagh turned the screw and won countless corners. The pressure took its toll and a thoroughly deserved equaliser left the tie at 3-3 with the visitors left wondering what had gone wrong. 

At this stage, goalkeeper Alex Truesdale was busy keeping his side in the game and made  one miraculous point blank save, resembling Jerzy Dudek’s heroics for Liverpool in the 2005 Champions League final. 

Extra-time loomed large and with the floodlights now on both sides knew that one mistake or a well-placed pass could be decisive.

After a cautious start to extra-time, Caolan Lennon stepped up to take a free-kick and scored a simply stunning goal into the top corner of the Omagh goal —a tremendous 35-yard thunder strike that encapsulated his class throughout the game. 

Omagh Academy pushed to get back into the game and were caught on the counter when that man Robinson pounced and rounded the ’keeper to score and put somne breathing space between the sides.

Robinson’s goalscoring exploits won him the man-of-the-match award, with Mulqueen’s midfield battling also worthy of high commendation. 

Lennon was a constant thorn in Omagh’s side while mazy runs from Josh Ward caught the eye, with Josh McMullan working hard too. Jamie Ferguson and Matthew Nelson also battled hard.