Nothing to separate Rushen and St Mary’s
RUSHEN United and St Mary’s had to settle for a point apiece when the two sides played out a 1-1 draw in the Canada Life Premier League at Croit Lowey on Saturday afternoon.
In a close and keenly-fought contest, both sides’ defences were on fine form throughout and a draw was probably a fair result, although the Saints were grateful for a couple of brilliant saves by goalkeeper Max Thomas late on.
The first chance of the game fell to Rushen centre-back Michael Baker who rose highest to meet Jack Saxon’s fourth minute corner but his header flew over the bar.
The contest soon developed into a midfield battle with neither side willing to give an inch but the pace of the St Mary’s front three meant the visitors looked dangerous on the break. Winger Brian Crellin saw an effort saved from the edge of the area before Ste Priestnal sent a dipping free-kick just over Thomas Strivens’s goal.
Priestnal also saw another effort deflected wide by Baker while at the other end of the pitch Riding saw a long-range effort saved comfortably.
The hosts then created a golden chance to take the lead just before the half hour mark when full-back Alex Maitland sent in a teasing cross to the back post where Mike Williams was unmarked but the striker could only head wide.
A defensive lapse by the Spaniards was almost punished as Priestnal sent his brother Marc racing through on goal but Strivens stood tall and saved superbly with an outstretched foot.
The game continued in much the same fashion but, with just four minutes remaining until the break, the deadlock was finally broken by the hosts. A long throw-in from the left was only half-cleared to Riding on the edge of the box and the winger took a touch before firing an excellent drilled shot with his weaker foot which arrowed past Thomas and into the bottom left corner of the net for 1-0.
However, the lead lasted less than a minute as the Saints reponded immediately. A surging run from midfield by Ste Whitley resulted in him being fouled 25 yards from goal, up stepped Ste Priestnal who curled in another dipping free-kick which bounced wickedly just in front of Strivens before nestling into the far corner of the goal to ensure the two sides went in level at the interval.
The second half began slowly with neither willing to take too many risks and it wasn’t until the 52nd minute that any notable chances were created. However, Crellin’s shot from a Whitley corner sailed harmlessly over the crossbar while at the other end Saxon saw a curling shot saved by Thomas.
Eventually the game began to open up after the hour mark but both teams were guilty of wasting chances. Marc Priestnal played a superb throughball to release Crellin one-on-one with Strivens but, unfortunately for Sam Kenny’s side, the winger opted to shoot rather than square the ball to a team-mate and Strivens was able to save.
Saxon then broke free down the left wing in similar fashion but his attempted lob was well read by Thomas and the chance passed.
It proved to be the first of a series of chances that fell Rushen’s way in the closing moments of the game as the Spaniards upped the pressure in search of the all-important next goal.
However, their efforts were met by a dominant display of defiance from island goalkeeper Thomas who produced a string of excellent saves to keep his side in the game.
Firstly, Williams latched onto a long ball over the top of the Saints defence and fired a venomous first-time half-volley but Thomas tipped his effort wide before the resulting corner was met by Aaron Hawley but his header was deflected over the bar.
Thomas then had to be on his toes to claw a couple of corners from underneath his own crossbar as Rushen piled on the pressure. However, the Saints keeper saved the best till last.
With the visitors struggling to clear their lines, the ball broke to Ciaran Brown on the edge of the box and the midfielder turned one defender before firing a fierce shot which seemed destined for the bottom left corner of the net until, somehow, Thomas managed to dive full-stretch and tip the ball round the post.
It proved to be the last meaningful chance of an intriguing affair between the two heavyweights of the Premier League, with the result leaving St Mary’s three points behind leaders St George’s but with a game in hand.
Rushen: Thomas Strivens, Alex Maitland, Chris Shimmin, Michael Baker, Adam Cregeen, Ciaran Brown, Neil Curphey (Joe Reid 61m), Stephen Riding, Mike Williams, Aaron Hawley (c), Jack Saxon. Sub not used: Ryan Denham
St Mary’s: Max Thomas, Harry Weatherill, Darren Smethurst, Dominic McGreevy (c), Karl Clark, Tom Weit, Ste Whitley (Dave Skillen 73m), Connor Gorman, Ste Priestnal, Marc Priestnal (Chris Anderson 84m), Brian Crellin (Nathan Cooil 79m)
Referee: Andy Lodge
Assistants: John McCallum and Ian Fisher
Man of the Match: Thomas (St Mary’s) - produced several top saves late in the game to earn his side what could orved to be an important point
Match rating: HHHII
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Tuesday 21 May 2013
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