SATURDAY past saw the Swifts take on Banbridge Rangers in a derby match at Iveagh Park - their first home game in quite some time.
The return fixture was a tight affair at Cheney park Banbridge that the swifts edged 2-1 and this game promised to be every bit as tight.
The game started as most derbys do with neither side really playing any fluent football and both feeling their way into the game. Rathfriland had the best of the early chances but failed to take them.
The first fell to Toal as he timed his run perfectly to outpace the rangers defence and bearing down on the keeper looked certain to score but the big keeper was quick off his line and stood up well to deny the Rathfriland man.
The same player was released down the right channel and fired narrowly wide of the keepers far post from the edge of the box.
Banbridge scored against the run of play from a well taken free kick. The referee adjudged captain Megaw to have fouled the Banbridge wide man and from the resultant freekick ‘Giggsy’ stepped up and bent the ball high over the wall and into the far top corner leaving Curran with no chance.
Rathfriland continued to battle and created further chances, most notably a header from Robb which went narrowly over from 12 yards out.
The half ended with neither side creating any clear cut chances and the Swifts happy to regroup.
The second half began with the swifts showing renewed vigour in everything they tried. Working harder to take the game to their opponents they upped their tempo and really started to play a lot better all over the park. Initially this worked as they were finally starting to string together some neat attacking football.
Disaster struck however when the Swifts failed to clear their lines and Rangers made them pay for their indecision by firing past Curran and open up a two goal lead.
The Swifts didn’t let this deter them in their efforts to get something out of the game. Rathfriland changed Robb who had fractured his finger in the first half for Hillen with Hollingsworth moving to the right and Hillen taking up a role behind Toal in attack.
This changed the game somewhat with Hillens energy causing the away side some considerable problems. He was soon on the score sheet when good work on the left hand side by Toal and Johnston saw the young substitute released into the path of the keeper and he slotted past the keeper to grab the Swifts a lifeline.
The same player was involved in the equaliser as he supplied the assist for Toal to fire past the keeper after good approach play by O’Reilly on the left hand side. Rathfriland now had their opponents on the ropes and looked favourites to take the spoils. Late in the game they were denied what looked a certain penalty when Toal was upended in the Rangers box but it wasn’t to be and they were made to settle for a share of the points.
Team; Curran, Bell, K. Megaw, J. Jackson, O’Reilly, Johnston, A. Megaw (capt.), Gilmore, Robb, Hollingsworth, Toal. Subs: Hillen, Ward, C. Jackson.