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Academy girls leave it late against RSD

Omagh Academy………………….2
RS Dungannon……………………1

OMAGH Academy will face Rainey in the third round of the Schools’ Cup after a hard fought but richly deserved victory over neighbours Royal School Dungannon at a rain-lashed Campsie Playing Fields on Tuesday afternoon.

A precious brace of goals by Katie Ballantine, the second of which didn’t arrive until two minutes from the end, proved enough to see Omagh across the line.

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In truth, the home side, driven on the experienced midfield axis of Lauren Armstrong, Mia Nethery and Amy McCollum, was the dominant force throughout, however they failed to deliver the knockout blow and a stunning breakaway goal by Molly Watt in the third quarter kept the visitors very much in contention until Ballantine struck the winner in the dying embers of a fascinating battle, which was played in horrendous overhead conditions.

Having breezed past Down High School 5-0 in the first round, Omagh, boosted by the return of their skipper Armstrong following a long lay-off with injury, found Dungannon a tougher nut to crack as the homesters took the game to their opponents early doors.

With the excellent Amy Sproule, Emma Hamilton, Katie Beattie and Emma Marechaux providing a strong defensive platform, it was the Academy girls who called the shots in the early exchanges. In fact in the opening minute RSD stopper Emma Given saved an early effort from Ballantine after a sweeping move involving McCollum, Marechaux and Armstrong.

Even at this early juncture it was looking like a long afternoon for the Dungannon defence as Omagh continued to probe for that early goal. The hosts failed to capitalise on two penalty corners in quick succession before another enterprising attack involving a quick exchange of passes between Armstrong and Nethery on the right just failed to connect with Ballantine.

Moments later Nethery cushioned the ball into the path of Ballantine, who, in football parlance, volleyed over the crossbar with the goal at her mercy.

But Omagh were getting closer and just before half-time they got a deserved breakthrough when Hollie Berrabah fed the ball in from the left and Ballantine turned to hammer it low and hard past Givan.

The entralling cup-tie followed a similar pattern in the second half. The Academy girls went in search of a second goal with Ballantine and Berrabah both going close although too often Omagh’s final pass let them down as the visiting rearguard continued to repel the home side’s attacking threat.

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Dungannon were looking increasingly dangerous on the counter attack and during one such foray a swift exchange of passes carved apart the home defence and Watt sprinted clear to coolly slot the ball past Nadine Hunter.

That equaliser well and truly put the proverbial cat among the pigeons and the visitors almost grabbed a second when in the wake of good play on the right, Lauren Gillespie sent a rasping effort the wrong side of a post.

The Academy regained their composure and in the final action of the third quarter Leah Bogle just failed to forced the ball home following good approach play by Ballantine and Sophie Egerton.

But Omagh stuck to the task at hand and their patience and persistence was eventually rewarded when right at the death McCollum ushered in Ballantine and the attacker steered the ball past Givan and, much to the delight of the home support, it trickled over the line.

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