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Crusaders 1-1 FK Rabotnicki

Martin Donnelly (right) and Vako Bozinovski
Martin Donnelly and Vako Bozinovski get ready for an aerial duel

Crusaders kept their Europa League hopes alive as David Rainey's late goal earned them a 1-1 draw against FK Rabotnicki at Mourneview Park.

Bobi Bozinovski put the Macedonians ahead on 47 minutes and the Crues' hopes looked bleak when Colin Coates was sent off on 65 minutes.

But Crusaders kept battling and they won a penalty on 89 minutes only for Martin Donnelly to hit the crossbar.

However, Rainey levelled in injury-time after great work by Donnelly.

Rabotnicki manager Zoran Stratev lost his composure after the Crusaders' equaliser and was ordered to the stands by the referee.

Crusaders started well and Chris Morrow had an early half-chance but his first touch let him down and the ball was cleared.

Rainey then tested goalkeeper Kristjan Naumovski with a shot from 22 yards as Crusaders continued to look lively.

There was a flurry of action in the moments before the break as Coates reacted brilliantly to block Bozinovski's close-range chance before the striker's follow-up to the net was ruled out for handball.

Mark Dickson and Vako Bozinovski
Martin Dickson is about to be challenged by Vako Bozinovski

Then at the other end, Donnelly had a long-range effort beaten away by Naumovski.

The second half continued in the same vein as the breakthrough goal came with Bozinovski netting from 14 yards after playing a neat one-two with Dusan Savic.

Undeterred the Crues continued to battle and Donnelly fired just wide on 53 minutes after good work by Rainey.

Crusaders boss Stephen Baxter introduced Jordan Owens for Morrow on 64 minutes but the home side suffered a huge blow seconds later when Coates received a straight red card after being adjudged to have elbowed Savic.

Owens' physical presence gave the Crues a new dimension and he earned their 87th-minute penalty as he was hauled down by Naumovski.

The keeper received a straight red card but Donnelly's penalty struck the woodwork with new custodian Martin Bogatinov beaten.

To their credit, the Crusaders players refused to accept that it wasn't their night as they summoned up a big finish.

Donnelly atoned for his penalty-miss by delivering a pinpoint cross for Rainey to head home.

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see also
Leeds chase Crues skipper Coates
08 Jul 09 |  Irish
Italy 3-0 Northern Ireland
06 Jun 09 |  Internationals
Magowan signs new deal with Crues
21 May 09 |  Irish
Dickson goal seals Crues cup win
09 May 09 |  Irish

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