Mulvey’s heroics keep Rangers’ double hopes alive

Rangers 1–1 Hazel Lane United | AET Rangers won 3–1 on pens

Rangers FC. Picture: Ciaran Culligan

Rangers’ hopes of a double are very much alive after a hard fought penalty shootout win against Hazel Lane United secured them a place in the quarter finals of the Fitzsimons Cup.

Both teams were quick out of the blocks but it was the Dundalk side who had the first chance when Shaun O’Connor saw his goalbound effort easily saved.

Just moments later, Hazel Lane almost went in front themselves but their number five’s header hit the top of the crossbar with Thomas Mulvey beaten in the Rangers goal.

The frantic opening continued and Barry Carr found himself free in the box after superb link-up play involving Gavin Gaffey and TJ Murtagh but he somehow dragged his shot wide of the post.

Murtagh then had a chance of his own when he met a Martin Murphy corner but his powerful header just went over the bar.

The away side created more opportunities of their own and Thomas Mulvey had to be alert to tip a well struck shot over the top just before the break.

The pace inevitably dropped in the second half but the game exploded into life in the 55th minute when Hazel Lane’s number eight hit a superb long range volley that left Mulvey with no chance.

Rangers had to chase the game and their job got much harder in the 60th minute when Martin Murphy was shown a second yellow card. However, the sending off seemed to galvanise Wayne Conroy’s side and they showed great spirit to take the game to their opponents.

Carr was again unlucky went his shot from a tight angle just went wide of the post and Murtagh then had what looked to be a goalbound effort saved after he went on a mazy run.

It looked like it wasn’t going to be Rangers’ day but they equalised in the 86th minute when Connor somehow found the energy and pace to race clear on the left and beat two players before slotting a cool finish under the advancing keeper to force extra time.

Both teams had limited chances to win the game after that, forcing the outcome to be decided on penalties. In the shootout, Mulvey superbly denied three Hazel Lane players to ensure that Rangers advanced on a 3–1 scoreline.

Next up for Rangers is a tricky away fixture against Rathkenny in the last eight on Sunday morning.

The local side, who have already secured promotion, can also be crowned NEFL Division Two champions if Kells Blackwater fail to beat Hazel Lane on the same day.

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