Nicholson Wonder Strike Wins Rangers Three Points.
It took a moment of absolute brilliance from Andrew Nicholson to deliver Northern Rangers a deserved victory over their rivals Launceston City, and it will be spoken about for years to come.
Northern Rangers fronted up for their only game under lights at the NTCA this year, but had to face up without in form striker Chris Hunt, who had ruled himself out of the clash so as to be able to prepare for his university exams. Adam Beard and Issa Dumbuya were both available again though after serving one week suspensions from the match against Burnie. Beard started for Hunt while Dumbuya came on from the bench.
Rangers record against Launceston City is not that flash, just 6 wins over them to date and even in the years that City have been at their lowest ebb, Rangers have had to battle tooth and nail to win, only ever once performing the double on them back in 2009 with a 3-0 and 0-4 result. This game was massive, as every game will be from now to the last of this season, with nothing but a win acceptable, anything else will then take the Rangers destiny out of their own hands and they will then rely on results to fall their way, even now, goal difference could still be the clincher.
Rangers moved the ball well from defence to midfield this week, and looked lethal at times, however the build up play was coming to little in the forward third. When the ball did make it into a dangerous position, Rangers lacked the deft touch to go ahead on the score board.
Hingston hit a rocket from 20 yards out, and typically, this was where the best of the chances were coming from. Nicholson copped an ankle tap in the 18 yard box, but stayed on his feet to attempt to finish the chance, where a fall may have won him a penalty. Hingston also looked dangerous from corners with his head, but the chances were either dealt with by Smith in goals, or deflected off a team mate for a goal kick.
City got in for their best chance of the match when Macri received a long ball down the left, he sent Declan Cuschieri the wrong way and passed him with ease before side stepping Lanau-Atkinson at the top of the box, his solo effort then was rewarded when his low shot went passed Pooley in goals and into the net for the lead.
Despite Rangers only having won one game this year from a deficit, against City of late their record is great in such a position, twice since 2008 have Rangers gone on to win against City in spite of a 2 goal deficit. One only needs to cast their mind back to last year’s shambolic day of shambles at Prospect.
Shortly after the set back, Adam Beard looked to have put the teams back level when he ran on to a neatly timed ball from Hingston, his control and shot from 20 yards out, beat the keeper, but hit the upright and was cleared.
Hingston also made good work of a corner, his charge from the back post to the front and contested header with the keeper was also denied by the very up right that had saved City from Beard’s shot.
Chances flowed but Rangers could not answer the call and it remained 0-1 at half time.
Rangers came out and took the game to City, Rangers controlled great lengths of the second half and penned City in their own half for long periods. The home side still looked vulnerable to the long ball counter attack City are so renowned for, with Cuschieri and Luck too far apart at times, this allowed Macri space to create another goal should the opportunity present.
But Rangers did hit back when a lovely passage of play ended with a centre meter perfect ball to the feet of Stefan Jago diagonally across the 18 yard box, he controlled the ball and finished superbly to level the scores.
The game lost some of its momentum after the goal and Whitemore introduced Dumbuya for Murray to activate some spark to the forward line. Dumbuya was a constant presence out wide, and made great work of his opportunities.
With the game delicately poised, regardless of the midfield dominance Rangers were enjoying, it was getting increasingly hard to see where the winners was coming from after Schipper and Hingston both missed close chances.
Lanau-Atkinson was making brilliant distractive runs across the back line of the City defence, and this was opening the way for the midfield to shoot, but it was a ball to the feet of Nicholson, in the same area in which Jago had scored earlier that sealed the fate of City, with defenders around him and little of the goal on offer for the shot, Nicholson rounded his defender and released a bullet from 15 yards out on a tough angle that soared into the roof of the top corner of the box style net, sending the healthy crowed into hysterics at the same time as Rangers hit the lead for the first time with just 2 minutes to play plus injury time.
Rangers did enough and referee Chris Parr blew time on another epic battle between these two clubs, Rangers this time getting away with the three points late in the game, as City had done to the club so many times in the past.
A game played in great spirits, and surely entertaining for all who witnessed it.
Some bad news though for those hoping to catch the highlights, the video camera at the ground did indeed lose battery power just minutes before Nicholson’s great goal.