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Once the final whistle had blown in the remaining Isle of Man Floodlit Cup Group B match, it was hard to determine who walked off the pitch the happier.
Rushen Utd gained a vital point, still maintaining their record of being the only team to qualify for the semi finals since the inception of this competition. Gymnasium, however, although they did not reach a place in the final four, can take a lot of positives after clawing back a two-goal deficit to finish with a share of the spoils, drawing 2-2 in this pulsating encounter. Mark Reid's side will be looking to bring this extra confidence into the restart of the league campaign.
In the match of the proverbial 'game of two halves', fire burned in the players' bellies which could have melted the surrounding snow. Rushen started the sharper, quickly tearing into their opponents with most of their play going through the middle, Hannah Biggerstaff leading the charge while Eleanor Gawne provided enterprise. Hannah Griffiths gave intelligent balance on the left and Natasha Robinson snapped away at any player wearing an opposing shirt.
Gawne must have wished the goal was a foot larger, her free kick hitting the bar with Janine Simpson following up but steering wide and moments later, she hit the top side of the bar following a corner.
With Gymnasium in disarray and Kim Carney forced to play deep to help her beleaguered defence, Rushen's pressure eventually bore fruit. Griffiths played the ball inside, Gawne slipped a diagonal through ball and Harrison charged in, nipping ahead of an advancing Ozga to prod home.
Biggerstaff and Gawne both hit the framework as amber and black striped shirts continued to swarm forward, netting again on 23 minutes. Collecting Stanley's kick, Gawne was found in space on the left and homed in on towards goal, guiding her effort past Ozga to make it 2-0.
On 28 minutes Gymnasium sought salvation from a Christian - Gill Christian. Susan Yule's dinked through ball flicked off the head of Natalie Swales and the Island captain charged into vacated space where she outwitted Stanley and rolled the ball into an empty net to reduce matters.
The Rushen back line, which had the fortification of Peel Castle in the first half, looked more like the Walls of Jericho in the second. Kim Carney was buzzing around everywhere in midfield as Rushen started to lose their shape and Stanley was playing more like a sweeper as Gymnasium quickly capitalised.
Carney dinked an effort past Stanley and gave chase but couldn't provide a cut back for the lurking Quinn. In another move, the Rushen goalkeeper charged out and recklessly fouled Quinn, which earned her a yellow card.
At the other end, Ozga had to be alert, pulling off an excellent save to deny Harrison from close range as Rushen could not build on their advantage. The southerners continued to live dangerously at the other end - from Ozga's huge goal kick, Kim Carney chipped over a stranded Stanley, only for her effort to land narrowly wide.
With Gymnasium enjoying large swathes of possession in the opposing half, they deservedly levelled matters with only two minutes remaining. Christian played it inside a congested penalty area where Rachel Beckley was found unmarked and she drove home the equaliser in at the near post.
Rushen Utd: Elizabeth Stanley, Rochelle O'Toole, Natalie Swales, Natasha Robinson, Katie Stopford, Hannah Griffiths, Eleanor Gawne, Hannah Biggerstaff, Janine Simpson, Zoe Hawley, Donna Harrison.
Gymnasium: Rose Ozga, Susan Yule, Renee Michalogiannis, Lee Quinn (sub Elaine Wiseman 55mins), Kerry Penswick, Zoe Carney, Kim Carney, Gill Christian, Rachel Beckley, Dawn Quinn, Angela Guest.
(Report by Paul Hatton)
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