Double delight as strikers fire Gers to promotion

5 March 2014; A general view of a football. UEFA Under 21 Championship Qualifier, Republic of Ireland v Montenegro, Tallaght Stadium, Tallaght, Co. Dublin. Picture credit: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE
5 March 2014; A general view of a football. UEFA Under 21 Championship Qualifier, Republic of Ireland v Montenegro, Tallaght Stadium, Tallaght, Co. Dublin. Picture credit: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE

Lisburn Rangers have secured promotion to the Amateur League’s top flight.

Two goals each from Graham and McConnell secured a narrow 4-3 win in what was effectively a winner-takes-all final day of the season game against fellow promotion hopefuls East Belfast.

East started the better and took an early lead when a looping cross found an unmarked defender, who headed past the helpless Lisburn keeper Darlington.

Darlington prevented the hosts from doubling the lead and got his reward when Lisburn soon equalised.

Ringland picked the ball up in the middle, held off his marker and slipped Davey Graham in to finish well into the roof of the net.

Both teams had half chances before the break, with the best one falling to Lisburn’s Graham, who found himself in a similar position to his earlier goal but saw his shot cleared off the line.

East Belfast regained the lead in the second half through another unmarked header but Lisburn responded almost immediately, when they put pressure on the last man, who headed it straight to striker McConnell. The big man coolly side footed his effort on the volley over the helpless keeper from 30 yards to make it 2-2.

After the goal, the game became stretched, which Lisburn took advantage of, scoring arguably the goal of the game.

Graham gathered the ball towards the corner, turned inside and played a delightful one-two with McConnell before finishing low into the bottom corner of the net for 3-2.

That Lisburn goal forced the East to up their urgency levels, knowing they needed to win the game. As a result they drew level through talisman Dee Wright, who controlled the ball with his back to goal, before spinning and volleying from close range past Darlington for 3-3.

East Belfast’s right back hit the woodwork twice within a minute but it was Lisburn who scored to make it 4-3 and ultimately win promotion. Man of the match Graham chased down and won the ball in the corner, before finding McConnell in the middle, to sweep home the winning goal.

The victory meant Lisburn secured promotion as runners up in Division 1A and will be playing their football in the top division next season.