THIS entertaining game saw Division 3A leaders Gracefield host Killeigh Ramblers in Portarlington on Sunday.
CCFL DIVISION 3A
Killeigh Ramblers 3
The recent bad weather had taken its toll on the pitch, which was badly cut up and made conditions difficult for two teams who like to play passing football.
The home side made the better start as a sluggish Killeigh struggled to get into the game. Straight from the kick-off they forced a corner and put pressure on the Killeigh defence.
Gracefield deservedly opened the scoring in the 10th minute when a corner from the right was only cleared as far as Eoin Gleeson, who played in a great ball with his left foot and Stephen Slattery got in ahead of the Killeigh defenders and 'keeper to poke the ball home.
It didn't take Killeigh long to get back into the game and 10 minutes later Kevin Daly played a great ball through for Kevin Keenaghan, who was taken down by Shane Broderick in the Gracefield goal. Keenaghan himself stepped up and fired the penalty low to the corner of the Gracefield net to leave the sides level.
Killeigh got a huge let off on the half hour mark when a defensive slip allowed Robbie Knight through on goal but the Killeigh keeper, Joe White, was very quick off his line and the striker poked the ball just wide.
The rest of the half saw two evenly matched teams with Cillian O'Brien, Paul Short and Brendan Kenny playing well for Killeigh. The sides went in level at one all at half time.
The second half continued to be a tightly fought affair with not too many chances being created. Both defences were playing well with Alan Reynolds again excellent for Killeigh and Stephen Slattery organising things for Gracefield.
Killeigh then introduced Mark Egan from the bench and Egan made a huge impact on the remainder of the game.
In the 60th minute, Killeigh scored a wonderful goal when Egan picked the ball up on the right wing, beat his marker and played a great ball across which was met acrobatically by Padraig Horan, the Killeigh right back who had made his way into the box.
This gave Killeigh a 2-1 lead and left Gracefield needing to break down a stubborn Killeigh defence who were playing very well. They almost got an equaliser when a dangerous ball from their sub found Eoin Gleeson at the back post but he could only find the side netting.
Joe White in the Killeigh goal was quick off his line on a few occasions to stop a few dangerous attacks. The introduction of the veteran Niall O'Rourke helped settle Killeigh and O'Rourke made several good tackles and effectively broke up play.
Gracefield won a few corners and had plenty of long throws into the Killeigh box but the Killeigh centre backs Alan Reynolds and Glen Raftery dealt well with everything. Killeigh were looking dangerous on the break and almost scored when more good work by Egan set up Eddie Keenan but his shot was cleared off the line by a Gracefield defender.
With 10 minutes remaining Killeigh wrapped the game up with their third goal. A break from the back saw the excellent Nigel Cunningham find space inside the box and his pull back was well finished by Kevin Keenaghan for his second goal.
Despite some Gracefield pressure in the final few minutes Killeigh held on for a hard earned 3-1 win, which lifts them closer to the top of the table. Gracefield stay top despite this win but sides in behind, including Killeigh have games in hand.
Gracefield are home to Clara Town in the first round of the CCFL Shield next Sunday while Killeigh face another away game, this time to Edenderry Town in the league. Overall this was an excellent performance by Killeigh, in difficult conditions and they played some very good football and battled well when needed.
Killeigh Ramblers: Joe White, Padraig Horan, Paul Short, Alan Reynolds, Glen Raftery, Kevin Daly, Nigel Cunningham, Cillian O'Brien, Brendan Kenny, Kevin Keenaghan, Eddie Keenan. Subs: Mark Egan, Niall O'Rourke, Dara O'Brien, James Dillon, Charlie Kelly, Ricky White