Rainey ES U16 boys v Ballymena Academy

On Wednesday 9th of February Rainey ES U16 boys welcomed Ballymena Academy to Meadowbank Sports Arena in what would be a clash of two Academical sporting giants. Rainey with a slightly weakened team knew it would be a tough test but one they would gladly step up to in preparation for their Quarter Final match later in the month. The two teams were scheduled to kick off the friendly game at 3pm on what was a lovely day for the beginning of February. Rainey captain Jonny Carson won the toss and decided to give the visitors kick off.  Ballymena started the game and immediately felt the pressure from the hosts, Rainey closing down every pass and run in order to make it difficult for Ballymena to progress up the pitch. However Ballymena coped well with the early pressure and played some nice football around the back and in the midfield. It wasn’t long though until Rainey had won the ball with the midfield duo of Pearce McLarnon and Sam Hardy working hard to force mistakes from the opposition. Immediately Rainey put Ballymena on the back foot with a quick counter attack. Stephen Greer testing the keeper early with a low shot across goal, the Ballymena shot stopper forced it wide for a Rainey corner. Rainey called the big men up from the back as Sam Hardy prepared to take the set piece. Sam whipped the ball into the box, beating all the Ballymena defenders only to land at the feet of Rainey’s Pearce McLarnon, the clinical midfielder made no mistake in smashing the ball past the Academy goalkeeper and into the back of the net to give Rainey the lead inside the first 10 minutes! Rainey ES 1-0 Ballymena Academy.

Ballymena, angered at conceding a set piece goal came right back from the kick off and had Rainey back peddling. The Braid boys kept the ball well in the midfield and the pressure told when they forced a mistake from the Rainey defence to win a free kick just outside the Rainey 18 yard box. Jamie Beggs in the Rainey goal pulled off a fantastic save only for Ballymena to follow up on the rebound and tap it in for the equaliser. The Rainey defence equally as angered as Ballymena, as they now had also conceded from a set piece.  Rainey ES 1-1 Ballymena Academy. Rainey didn’t let the heads drop though and went straight back into Ballymena’s half and created lots of chances with David Lennox beating men on the left hand side and getting the ball into the box only for the Ballymena goalkeeper to keep out the Rainey boys’ efforts. The constant pressure from the Magherafelt men told when Michael McIvor-New broke inside with the ball only to be fouled a few yards outside the box. Rainey skipper Jonny Carson stepped up to take the free-kick and bounced it just before the keeper making it an awkward shot to save but the Ballymena man did well in forcing it behind for a corner. From the resulting corner, Jonny again came close inside the box, having lost his marker at the back post but failed to connect sweetly with the ball and the Ballymena defence were able to clear. The referee blew for half time in what had been a physical battle between the two grammar schools. Half time, Rainey ES 1-1 Ballymena Academy.

Rainey’s half time team talk focused on defending as they attack and making sure they don’t commit too many bodies upfront, leaving them exposed at the back. Rainey made a few tactical changes, moving goal scorer Pearce McLarnon upfront to join the speedy Thomas Boyle in order to hopefully improve their end product in the final third, Stephen Greer moving back into midfield to support anchor man Sam Hardy. Rainey kicked off the second half and came straight out of the blocks, immediately putting the Ballymena boys on the back boot. Rainey really started to enjoy the game with Kaelum Irvine joining the attack from left back and putting some brilliant inviting balls into the box, forcing some great defending from the Ballymena back line. As the half went on Ballymena started to grow into the game, exchanging possession throughout the midfield. Rainey then made some changes, bringing on tricky winger Matt Currie. Kaelum Irvine at left back and Matt Currie at left wing linked up very well down the left hand side playing some great one-two’s with their midfield counterparts. This great team play leaded to Rainey’s second goal when Matt Currie got down the wing well and squared the ball for the ever prolific Pearce McLarnon to tap in past the Ballymena keeper. Promising play from the Rainey boys which of course put them ahead in the tie. Rainey ES 2-1 Ballymena Academy. As the game grew old, Rainey now started to wear down the Braid boys with great possession across the back line and the midfield.

Rainey then made more changes, bringing on a further five subs in order to inject some fresh legs and new life into the game! Matthew Kissick coming on to hold the ball up well down the right for Curtis Mclean to collect and take the play up the wing. Mark Slane joined the Rainey defence on the hour mark in order to sturdy up the defensive side of the game as Rainey wanted to protect the precious lead they had worked hard for. Ballymena came back at Rainey and had a snap shot at the Rainey goal, the ball looked to be sailing in bottom left only for Jamie Beggs in the Rainey goal to pull of an absolute wonder save to keep Rainey in the lead! From this Rainey went up the other end of the pitch and won a free kick. The Rainey support watched on as Pearce McLarnon stepped up to test the Ballymena goalkeeper. Not only did Pearce test the keeper, but he beat him! The ball dipping over the Academy wall and into the back of the net! Rainey ES 3-1 Ballymena Academy. Having held off in the last 5 minutes, the whistle blew for full time. Rainey ES U16s recording their 6th win in a row. A promising display from the weakened Rainey side who now look forward to their Quarter Final on February 24th against St.Colms at Mallusk playing fields.