NAFL Border Cup Round Four
St Oliver Plunkett FC 4 Rosario 2
ST OLIVER PLUNKETT moved into the quarter-finals of the Border Cup as they came through a lively game against Rosario at Lenadoon Park on Saturday.
The hosts were stunned early when going down, but levelled almost immediately after and goals just before and after half-time appeared to leave them in cruise control.
However, the South Belfast side grabbed a lifeline with 20 to go, but were caught late when pushing for the equaliser as Plunkett advanced into the last eight.
This was a game in which both sides gave it their all with some meaty challenges from the first whistle to last, but this added to the game as it was played in a very competitive spirit throughout.
From the kick-off, it was the hosts on the front foot as they pressed for an early advantage, but couldn't quite carve out an opening as Rosario settled.
The visitors seemed to be dealt a major blow after just five minutes when winger Stephen Dougherty hobbled off after a full-blooded contest for the ball, but when play resumed a couple of minutes later, the resultant free-kick on the left was swung on by Rory McCredie that broke to Pierce Arterton whose thunderous shot produced a stunning save from Ryan Sewell, but the rebound dropped to Conor Murray who lashed to the net to give the Roses a seventh minute lead.
That advantage would last just two minutes, however, as after a neat exchange of passes, Gary Dunlop found himself in and he shot low to the net despite the best efforts of Seamus McFlynn to level the game.
The first half was hugely competitive although was lacking in real goalmouth action as both sides struggled to create much of note, although that did change on 29 minutes as Plunkett's Eoghan Hamill slid a pass into Conal Duffy who looked certain to score, but McFlynn got down brilliantly to turn the goal-bound shot out for a corner.
The hosts were perhaps looking more likely to go in front as they enjoyed more of the ball in the Rosario half, but it would come just two minutes before the break as McFlynn clattered into the back of Sean Jackson inside the area and a penalty was awarded, which was confidently slotted low to the right corner by Ciaran Reid to give Plunkett a 2-1 lead at the break.
The West Belfast club would take little time to increase their advantage early in the second period as a light drizzle began to fall with the best goal of the afternoon as the ball broke to Jackson at the edge of the area and he let fly with a magnificent strike that beat McFlynn all ends up to make it 3-1.
They could and really should have put the game to bed on 59 minutes when a cross from the left saw Conal Duffy with the goal at his mercy, but he missed the ball when it was begging to be headed in with the goal gaping.
Still, it seemed the hosts were well in control of this game, but gradually, Rosario began to get on the ball more and push forward although Murray's 63rd minute shot on the turn was well off target and then substitute Eamon Carvill couldn't get a good connection on a cross from the left as the ball spited wide.
At the other end, Gary Dunlop shot over after a nice approach, but there was just a sense that the hosts were dropping a little too deep and on 71 minutes, Rosario got their reward when a fantastic cross from the left, whipped in by Andy Morrow saw Murray rise and glance it home to bring his side right back into the game.
Rosario's tails were now up and they pressed on in search of the equaliser and they had their chances. On 75 minutes, another excellent ball in from Morrow - this time from a corner - was met by Stephen Douglas, but his header went just over. Then on 79 minutes, Morrow was once again the provider as his free-kick just needed turned in by Pierce Arterton, but he missed the header.
They would be punished with five minutes to play as Plunkett broke out and a great pass set Hamill away on the left wing. He got to the end line and pulled it back across goal where Dunlop was only too happy to turn it home.
A similar move almost resulted in a fifth for the hosts with Jody Lynch this time the provider, but McFlynn made a magnificent diving save to deny Dunlop his hat-trick.
It would matter little as the job had now been done as Plunkett march on.
SOPFC: R Sewell, M Mervyn, M Webb, S Killyleagh, M Healy, C Nolan (G Gormley 87), S Jackson (J Lynch 79), C Duffy, G Dunlop, C Reid (E Reid 72), E Hamill.
Goals: G Dunlop (9, 85), C Reid (pen 43), S Jackson (46)
ROSARIO: S McFlynn, M Allison, R McCredie (D McConville 69), S Dougal, N McGowan, P Mallon, M ward, P Arterton, J Jennings (E Carvill 53), C Murray, S Dougherty (A Morrow 5)
Goals: C Murray (7, 71)