RANGERS Colts progressed to the fourth round of the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Cup this evening with a win over Ballymena United.
Serge Atakayi’s 87th minute strike was the difference as Graeme Murty’s side beat the Northern Irish Premiership side 1-0.
A minute’s silence was observed before kick-off in memory of former Rangers captain Fernando Ricksen.
The crowd at Ballymena Showgrounds applauded during the second minute of the game, in tribute to Ricksen who wore the number 2 jersey.
Rangers started bright and were finding space as Jamie Barjonas made ground in midfield before finding Nathan Patterson wide on the right. Patterson fired a dangerous cross across the face of goal but it was turned behind by a Ballymena defender.
The hosts came close to opening the scoring as Ryan Mayse’s shot from inside the area bounced off the post and went behind.
Rangers had their first shot on target on 25 minutes as Greg Docherty played through to Dapo Mebude who drilled a low effort towards goal but it was saved by the keeper.
Ballymena were forced into an early change inside the first half hour as Anthony Kane had to come off injured and was replaced by Leroy Miller.
On the 32nd minute, the home side came close again as Joshua Kelly’s cross from the right curled and took a touch off the bar before going out for a throw-in.
Rangers had a chance a few minutes later as Kai Kennedy done well to win the ball back in the middle of the park before playing forward to Dapo Mebude. The forward found Greg Docherty who turned well inside the box before getting his shot away but it was saved by Jordan Williamson.
Graeme Murty’s side had a chance shortly after the break as good play from Rangers resulted in Kai Kennedy getting a cross into the box which was headed towards goal by Dapo Mebude but was saved by the goalkeeper.
The young Gers had another chance early in the second-half as Kai Kennedy picked up on a loose ball and drove forward before getting a right-footed shot away but it was saved by Williamson.
At the other end of the pitch, the home side came close to breaking the deadlock as Shane McGinty fired a powerful shot towards goal but it drifted just over the target.
A well-worked corner from Rangers saw Kai Kennedy’s find James Maxwell in space on the edge of the box. The left-back got a shot away which was tipped over the bar by the home keeper.
Rangers continued to pressure as Dapo Mebude and Greg Docherty both had efforts saved by the keeper around the hour mark.
Eros Grezda saw his header go just over the bar as he got on the end of a cross from Rhys Breen on the 72nd minute but the bounce saw it go just over the bar.
Grezda came close to opening the scoring again 10 minutes later as Dapo Mebude cut the ball back to him but his low drilled effort was saved well by the home keeper.
The game turned lively as Eros Grezda appeared to be fouled while through on goal, as tempers rose at Ballymena Showgrounds.
However, the goal did come for Graeme Murty’s side as Jamie Barjonas played a long ball forward which found its way to Serge Atakayi who fired beyond Jordan Williamson with three minutes of the game remaining.
Ballymena: Williamson, Kane (Miller, 28), Addis, Mayse, McGinty, Harpur, Burns, Balmer, Ervin, Kelly (Carville, 80), Lavery. Subs: Glendinning, Whiteside, Friel, McCullough, McGrory.
Rangers: Wright, Patterson, Maxwell (Atakayi, 61), Mayo, Breen, Finlayson, Grezda (Young-Coombes, 84), Docherty, Mebude, Barjonas, Kennedy. Subs: Budinauckas, Williamson, Dickson, Butterworth, Miller.