Larne live to fight another day in this season’s Irish Cup, after a late Craig Todd goal earned them a replay against Lurgan Celtic with the winner to entertain Knockbreda in the sixth round.
For the second successive week, Todd produced the goods as the Reds laid siege to the Celtic goal late in the game.
It was a relieved Graham McConnell who spoke to the Times at the final whistle. “We deserve to still be in the competition,” he said. “We showed a lot of heart and in a way we were forced to change the formation in the second half.
“Maybe it wasn’t the right formation to start with, and I take responsibility for that, but it was great for the new players to all get game time which is good for the club and we are looking forward to the replay,” added McConnell.
The visitors almost had a dream start after 35 seconds when a deflection broke to Raymond Fitzpatrick, but from five yards he fired over the bar.
Larne suffered a blow midway through the first-half when captain Paul Maguire was forced to retire with a foot injury which required an X-ray.
Celtic took the lead just after the half-hour mark when William Wharry was adjudged to have controlled the ball with his hand inside the box. Fitzpatrick stepped up and fired the resultant penalty straight down the middle into the net.
Just before the break, Liam Conlan, who had replaced Maguire, forced a brilliant save from Ciaran Fox.
Larne looked livelier after the interval and Niall McAllister was unlucky to see his looping header drift just over the bar, before Darren McNamee tested the woodwork.
At the other end, Chris Keenan had to be alert to deny Ciaran Conway.
As the minutes ticked away, the Reds forced a string of corners. With three minutes to go, the equaliser arrived when Gary Workman whipped the ball in from the left. He thought it had crossed the line but Todd appeared to poke it home after it had struck the post.
Larne: Keenan, S.Todd (Braniff), Haughey (Workman), McAllister, Wharry, McNamee, Irvine, Young, Maguire (Conlan), C.Todd, Simms. Unused sub: J. Wharry.