The action kicked off on Friday evening when Crewe United hosted Lurgan Town and comfortably advanced to the next round thanks to a brace from Chris Scannell and a goal apiece from Jody Lynch and debutant Paul McDowell, all former NIFL Premier League players on the scoresheet for the Mid-Ulster side incidentally.
Moving onto Saturday and perhaps the most interesting tie of the round was at Crystal Park were Banbridge Town welcomed Premier Intermediate League (PIL) counterparts Annagh United, only two places currently separate the two sides in the league table. As was perhaps expected the game was a tight one but Annagh found the breakthrough just before the break when the experienced Niall Henderson scored from the penalty spot after Ruairi McDonald has been fouled. Town equalised on the hour-mark when Darren McGrath converted following a Neil Clydesdale free-kick but United scored the winner twenty minutes from time when Christian Stewart scored from close range.
Another intriguing fixture took place at the Bangor Fuels Arena where Bangor and Crumlin Star met. Bangor currently sit second in the Ballymena and Provincial League and Crumlin Star are fourth in the Amateur League Premier Division so the two sides would be roughly on a par, Star made it to the Steel and Sons Cup semi-final this season but were knocked out by Sirocco Works on penalties. Bangor perhaps had the better of the game but there were no goals in the ninety minutes so extra-time it was, Mark Cooling finally opening the scoring for the home side early in the first period.
At this point, it looked like Hugh Sinclair’s men would be the side heading through but substitute Miguel Chines, who lifted the trophy with Carrick in 2014-15, had other ideas and levelled with just a few minutes to go. Soon after this, Chines turned the game on its head when he put the visitors in front but they failed to hang on and Ethan Boylan scored to send the tie to penalties. In the end, it was Crumlin Star who held their nerve converting all their penalties to advance to the next stage.
Elsewhere, there were wins for PIL sides Portstewart and Dollingstown and current holders Queens are still in the hat after they knocked out Lurgan Celtic.
Here’s a full list of the results:
Crewe United 4 v 1 Lurgan Town
Banbridge Town 1 v 2 Annagh United
Orangefield OB 1 v 4 Dollingstown
Banbridge Rangers 1 v 1 East Belfast (Banbridge Rangers won 5 – 4 on penalties)
Portstewart 2 v 0 Ballynahinch Olympic
Queen’s University 2 v 1 Lurgan Celtic
Moneyslane 1 v 4 Newbuildings United
Bangor 2 v 2 Crumlin Star (Crumlin Star won 2 – 4 on penalties)
At the time of writing, the draw for the quarter-finals is yet to take place but it is sure to throw up some interesting ties and all being well, I’ll be back once again to enjoy looking back on it.