There were five youth games over the weekend with the U13’s, U14’s and U15’s taking on Airdrie and U16’s and U17’s playing hosts to County Down select sides. I was able to take in two of Sunday’s games, the U15’s in the morning and U17’s in the afternoon.
Rangers 9 Airdrie 3
Rangers squad included their three new recruits for the season ahead, as well as five Under 14 players against an Airdrie that included four U16’s. Rangers took the lead from the penalty spot on seven minutes, Reegan Aitken played in Kai Kennedy on the right side of the box where he was brought down and stepped up to convert the spot kick. The visitors replied less than five minutes later with attack on the right that took them deep into the Rangers penalty area with Lewis Budinauckas standing up to block the shot.
Just after the twenty-minute mark Kai Kennedy turned a defender on the edge of the box but was denied when the keeper dived to his left to make the save. The second goal was only delayed sixty seconds, Kai Kennedy’s pass freed Simon Millar inside the right side of the box, the keeper dived to his right to parry his shot but was helpless when Reegan Aitken knocked in the rebound.
Five minutes later Ciaran Dickson exchanged passes with Kai Kennedy before striding into the box and slotting in Rangers third. The same combination created and executed the fourth goal on the half-hour, Kai Kennedy teeing up Ciaran Dickson to beat the keeper from the edge of the box.
Rangers looked like scoring with every attack and number five soon followed, Kyle McClelland hit the byline on the right and from his cutback Reegan Aitken’s effort was blocked but Darren Waterstone was well placed to knock in the rebound. The sixth goal came from a twenty-five yard free kick just left of centre that Kai Kennedy fired into the keeper’s top left hand corner.
Credit to the young Airdrie side who finished the half with a flourish and pulled two goals back, the first came from an attack down the right and an unselfish centre to set up a simple finish. Within a couple of minutes the ball was passed inside from the left and the shot from distance flew high past Lewis Budinauckas.
Half-Time:- Rangers 6 Airdrie 2
Rangers first attack after the break was a fine move started by Matthew Henderson, the ball moved via Ciaran Dickson to Darren Waterstone who hit the byline, from his low ball to the back post a goal looked certain but Simon Millar shot over. Twenty minutes in Rangers scored again, a short corner was worked on the left and the ball moved from Kai Kennedy via Kyle McClelland to Rhys Caves who’s cross was headed back across the keeper in to the far corner by Harris O’Connor.
With twenty minutes remaining the ball was moved inside from the right to Kai Kennedy who’s superb twenty-five yard chip looked net bound until the keeper dived high to his right to claw the ball away. Rangers eighth goal came two minutes later a slack clearance from the keeper went straight to Darren Waterstone wide on the left and he immediately sent a superb half volley looping over the keeper and into the net.
With a quarter-hour left on the clock Ciaran Dickson sent Darren Waterstone towards the left hand byline, from his cross to the back post Rhys Caves saw he effort blocked but Aaron Lyall netted from close range. Like the first half the visitors finished with a flourish. A cross from the left to the back post was volleyed goalwards and it took a fine save from Lewis Budinauckas diving to his left to keep the ball out.
The Rangers keeper was then a bit slack with an attempted pass but recovered well to make another save as the attacker shot for goal. The final goal of the game came when an Airdrie forward latched on to a short Aiden Berry pass back before teeing up his team-mate to slot home Airdrie’s third.
Full-Time:- Rangers 9 Airdrie 3
Rangers Squad:- Lewis Budinauckas (Gk); Kyle McClelland, Matthew Henderson, Ciaran Dickson, Harris O’Connor, Murray Miller, Simon Millar, Kai Kennedy, Reegan Aitken, Tom Henderson, Darren Waterstone, Aiden Berry, Aaron Lyall, Rhys, Caves, Ryan Muir.
Over the weekend Rangers hosted the County Down squads scheduled to compete in this month’s SuperCupNI (formerly The Milk Cup). The under 16’s sides met yesterday and I believe Rangers came out on top 5-3. Today Rangers U17’s ( supplemented with three U18’s) met County Down’s U18’s, which was a game I was able to take in.
Rangers 1 County Down 1
Rangers created the first chance on five minutes, a short corner was worked on the left and from the cross Jordan Houston rose to head goalwards with keeper Matthew Davidson diving high to his left to make the save. Chances were at a premium but on twenty-six minutes Rangers had a great chance to take the lead from the penalty spot. Mati Zata worked his way along the right hand byline and was tripped by Brandon Nelson, Matthew Shiels stuck the ball powerfully but it crashed off the bar on the way over.
Just after the half-hour Stephen Kelly and Sam Jamieson combined to sent Mati Zata clear inside the box, he fired for goal with Matthew Davidson just getting enough of a touch to divert the ball wide of his right hand post. Eight minutes before the break Scott Gray passed to Stephen Kelly on the left hand angle of the box but his shot was only just too high.
A minute later Jordan Houston broke from right-back and the solo run took him past three defenders and into the box but his effort flashed just wide of the far post. The last chance of the half came when Stephen Kelly broke forward and fed Sam Jamieson inside the left side of the box but he shot over.
Half-Time:- Rangers 0 County Down 0
The game had almost reached the hour mark when the first chance of the second half came, the ball broke for Andy Dallas inside the right side of the penalty area with Matthew Anderson getting down to his left to save at the post. On sixty-five minutes the visitors called Brian Kinnear into action, Jack Henderson sent a free-kick from wide on the left into the penalty area, it was met by the head of Adam Garland which forced the Rangers keeper to tip over.
Rangers were soon back on the attack and a good passing move involving Andy Dallas, Stephen Kelly, Mati Zata and Carlo Pignatiello end with the latter’s shot forcing Matthew Anderson to dive to his right to save. With eighteen minutes remaining the visitors took the lead, Paul Savill broke forward from left back and passed to Timmy Browne who exchanged passes with Connell Young before curling a shot beyond Brian Kinnear from a tight angle.
Rangers got back on level term six minutes later, Jay Mack sent a ball over the top of the County Down defence and Dapo Mebude beat the advancing keeper with a superb lob. Rangers had one final chance to win the game four minutes from time, Jordan Houston’s low cross from the left was met by Mati Zata on the edge of the six yard box but the connection wasn’t clean and Paul Savill cleared from the line.
Full-Time:-Rangers 1 County Down 1
Rangers Squad:- Brian Kinnear (Gk), Jordan Houston, Scott Gray, Cammy Palmer, Jason Krones, Jay Mack, Trialist (7), Stephen Kelly, Sam Jamieson, Mati Zata, Matthew Shiels, Andy Dallas, Zac Butterworth, Carlo Pignatiello, Dapo Mebude.
County Down Squad:- Matthew Davidson (Gk), Matthew Anderson (Gk), Connell Young, Paul Savill, Adam Garland, Kyle Calderwood, Matthew Hall, Scott McArthur, Timmy Browne, Niall Cassidy, Chris Murray, Neil Dillon, Tom Mathieson, Josh Kelly, Jack Sharvin, Aaron Devlin, Brandon Nelson.