OK, THE battle to beat the drop is still not going in their favour, but Fort Rangers still harbour hopes of being a Premier Division club next season.
After a 10-game search, Fort finally picked up their first league win of the season in Laois.
The home of the Lions is usually a tough place to get something - before Sunday they hadn’t lost a league outing there this season - but Rangers arrested their slide with a 3-1 result that helped take all three points from Durrow.
A brace from Emmet Nugent, coupled with a Davy Forristal strike, did the damage for Jim Cashin’s side, who doubled their points tally for the season on the back of that maiden win.
With five games left they trail third from bottom Clover United by five points. Losing both games to Clover may have hurt their chances of survival, but other results could help them climb to safety.
Waiting on the form of other clubs is a theme that could also be called on in Division One - just ask East End United A.
The Bennettsbridge side continued their great run of form with a hard-fought win at home to Spa United on Sunday, a result that keeps them in the box seat for a return to the top flight.
Currently East End are second in the table, level on points with Newpark A in third but as they have played two games more than the city side they’ll be hoping for a slip-up or two from their rivals to keep them where they are.
Winning games has helped, however. They maintained an unbeaten start to 2013, picking up their fourth win - they’ve also had one draw - thanks to two goals from Paul Murphy, Sean Wemyss adding a third to secure the spoils on a 3-2 scoreline against the Johnstown men, who have only won one of their last five games.
As for Newpark, they made sure to keep themselves in the running for promotion thanks to a 3-1 win over Urlingford.
Mark Ryan’s side made the perfect recovery from last week’s defeat to East End - their first of the league campaign - by returning to winning ways at the Fen.
Goals from John Hayes, Tommy Donovan and Sean Falsey did the trick as they recorded their eighth win and stayed level with East End on 27 points apiece.
The two clubs are still behind the long-time leaders, Southend United, but much like East End they may also have to play the waiting game before finding out what their final position in the table will be.
With three games to play they are three points clear at the summit - East End have only two matches left, but with Newpark left with four games on their schedule it’s still too close to call in the promotion race.
The battle to avoid relegation is just as interesting in Division One, with teams enduring another twist in the plot at the weekend.
Fresh from their first win of 2013 against Spa United last week, Stoneyford made it two successes in seven days, albeit in slightly easier circumstances. Stoney were given the points after Highview Athletic A conceded a walkover.
That result means that Callan are prime candidates to go down alongside Highview. The McCalmont Cup holders are now second from bottom, trailing Stoneyford five points with both clubs now having played the same number of games.
Tullaroan have finally been overtaken at the top of Division Two, but Freshford Town left it very, very late before taking that coveted number one spot.
Town went to the top of the table on Sunday but only did it with virtually the last kick of the game as they came from behind to beat Brookville 2-1 away in Ballyragget.
The hosts took a first half lead courtesy of David Farrell, but were pegged back by Freshford when Shea Burke found the net with a volleyed finish midway through the second half.
Even though both sides gave their all in search of a winner - both J.J. O’Sullivan and Shane McGree made some fine saves to deny the opposition - a draw seemed to be on the cards until the game was in injury-time. Pushing for last gasp breakthrough, some pressure from Burke forced Brookville backwards. With Paul Guinan lending his support to the chase, an unfortunate touch from a home defender saw the ball end up in the net, giving the visitors all three points with the final seconds running out.
Fine run of form
The result caps a fine run of form from Freshford, who are eager to climb back up the ranks of the local leagues. It’s now three wins and a draw since the start of the year, a string of results that has helped Freshford close the gap to the long-time leaders.
However, Tullaroan will get the chance to return the summit and quickly, when they host the Lions B on Sunday.
Elsewhere it was a good day for two of the division’s city sides. Newpark B beat local rivals St John’s 4-0, their goals coming from John Corcoran, Mark Kavanagh, Richie Denieffe and Sammy Johnson as they stayed five points behind leaders Freshford with three games in hand.
Elsewhere Evergreen C saw off Clifden United on a 3-1 scoreline. A Kevin Ireland penalty got them moving in the right direction, while Cormac Hogan and Gerry Walsh were also on the scoresheet.
The final game in the division saw Thomastown United B beat the Lions B 3-1 on Sunday. That result keeps Thomastown in fourth place with 24 points to their name, one point behind Newpark B in third.
There was only one game in Division Three, where Orchard Rovers picked up three points after Highview Athletic B conceded a walkover.
Finally, the Maher Shield will be decided by two city sides after Freebooters A and Evergreen B booked their place in the St Patrick’s Day decider.
A single goal proved enough to decide each game. Neil Murtagh did the business for the Blues, striking late in the first half as they beat Evergreen A 1-0 at the Fair Green. It wasn’t the best of days for the visitors, as David Grincell saw his penalty saved by Donal Brennan, while they also lost Chris Whearty to a red card.
The club’s B team had better luck as they came back from a trip to Thomastown with their place in next month’s final secured. Conor Barry was the man of the moment, scoring the only goal as they beat Thomastown United A 1-0.
The final will be played in Derdimus on March 17 at 4pm. In a silver-laden spell of the season, the Kilkenny & District League have also announced that the Women’s Shield final between Bridge United and Evergreen will be held on Sunday, March 10. The Henderson Shield final between Evergreen and Fort Rangers or Freebooters will be played on March 18.
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