CLOUGH Rangers Athletic were unable to make a winning start to the new Ballymena & Provincial Internmediate League season on Saturday.
The Tobar Park side went down 1-0 at home to league newcomers Magherafelt Sky Blues in the curtain-raising match in the Michelin Athletic Club-sponsored championship.
Away from the pitch, league officials wer rocked by the late withdrawal of Rasharkin United, runners-up in the league just two seasons ago.
Failure to obtain commitment from players was the reason cited and club officials were left with little choice other than to call it a day after 13 years as members of the Intermediate Division.
Rasharkin’s demise is the latest chapter in what has become an increasingly familiar pattern among clubs in the mid-Antrim and north Antrim areas where, until recently 11 teams were competiting at intermediate level.
But the withdrawals of the likes of Connor and Portglenone in recent seasons has seen that number reduced to just five.
It is also a letdown for local borough councils who, along with the IFA, spent large sums of money bringing the grounds up to Intermediate level.
Matches involving locally-based sides in the week ahead are:
Friday, August 10 – Intermediate League (7pm): Desertmartin v Clough Rangers Athletic.
Saturday, August 11 – Intermediate League (2pm): Ballynure Old Boys v Carniny Amateurs
Tuesday, August 14 – Intermediate League (7pm): Dunloy v Carniny Amateurs; Raceview v Clough Rangers Athletic.
Clough Rangers Athletic 0, Magherafelt Sky Blues 1: With this being the first game of the new season for both teams you would have thought the pace would have been fairly slow at the start, but this certainly was not what happened as both teams went off at a fast pace which never slackened for the entire game.
Defences had the better of the opening forty five minutes with chances at a minimum and at half-time no goals had been scored.
Both teams created chance or two at the start of the second half but the scoreline remained blank.
On the 65th minute the deadlock was broken when after a good move Aaron Hall struck for the Sky Blues with a goal that at the end of a very close game saw them collect all three points.