After five defeats in their least six outings, Newington Rangers made a welcome return to winning ways with this 3-1 victory away to Iveagh United on the 3g at the Brook Activity Centre, Twinbrook.
Not for the first time of late, Newington were without a recognised keeper, with defender Alan McWhirter once again the stand-in.
Newington, though, got off to a flyer, racing ahead after eight minutes when Paul Thompson slipped the ball through for Neil Hodge to accelerate through before rounding the keeper.
A minute later, it was almost two, with Marty Stirling’s shot, from a Jim Thompson pass, fizzing just the wrong side of the crossbar.
Rangers were going all out for a second, with the home keeper doing well to keep out Jim Thompson’s first-time effort.
Iveagh had their first real pot on goal on 18 minutes; McWhirter pulling off a comfortable enough save.
At the other end, the Iveagh netminder once more distinguished himself, tipping a rasping effort from Adam McGivern over the bar, while Hodge was robbed by a well-timed tackle from a United defender.
However, it was Iveagh who levelled matters on 38 minutes; the centre-half’s initial header was zooming wide only for the quick-thinking number 11 to divert it past the helpless McWhirter.
Newington almost regained the initiative just before the break, but Hodge was foiled by the keeper, while Stirling, fastening onto McGivern’s defence-splitting pass, was halted by what must have been a borderline offside decision.
While Rangers lived dangerously when the Iveagh centre-half blazed one just over, generally the second-half was following the same template as the first, with Jamie McGarel, on one of his rare trundles forward, volleying a Paul Thompson cross over the bar.
On 65 minutes, McWhirter reacted superbly to keep out a cross-shot from the left winger – before then setting Rangers away on the counter attack, with McGivern nodding the ball through for Hodge to dispatch into the top corner.
There was another let-off for Newington when the unmarked Iveagh number 11 headed over from just three yards out. However, the Larne boys made doubly sure five minutes from time when Hodge completed his hat-trick, after a neat lay-off from Stirling.
On Saturday, Newington travel to Bellsbridge, Dromara to meet Ballynahinch Olympic.
Newington Rangers: McWhirter – Brown, Grant, McGarel, Spence – McGivern, Lusty, J Thompson, Hodge – Stirling, P Thompson.
Jamie Stirling, D, Krag Albion.