The form book went out the window as Gilford Crusaders gave Rectory Rangers a game to remember.
The trip to Portadown to face top of the table Rectory Rangers was not one to look forward to for Gilford as Rectory seemed able to score at will and Gilford had been leaking goals badly.
Gilford made an early impression when they went on the attack straight from the kick-off, forcing the Rectory keeper into action to stop Conor Magee’s effort.
The home team also mounted some early forays into Gilford territory without much impact.
Gilford continued to pressure and saw chances from Chris Magee and Stephen O’Hare stopped by the keeper or just catch the bar.
The constant pressure paid off for Gilford in the 27th minute when Conor Magee grabbed the opener off a rebound off the keeper from Ronan Barry’s cross.
Rectory were not going to take this lying down and they went all out to get an equaliser.
Indeed their concentrated attacks saw Michael Breen make two goal-line headed clearances in as many minutes.
Chris Magee had the chance to extend Gilford’s lead in 33 minutes only to see his shot pass the stranded keeper only to be cleared off the line.
The hosts grabbed their equaliser when a rifled shot was parried by McKinstry, only to fall into the path of a Rectory forward who took great delight in stroking home the chance.
So it was that, very much against form and expectations, the second half started honours even with Rectory making the early showing forcing McKinstry into early action.
Gilford, who have had trouble maintaining concentration post half-time were having trouble getting out of their own half as Rectory piled on the pressure.
The dividend was paid to them when they took the lead in 55 minutes from an unstoppable volley from 10 yards following an inch perfect pass.
Normally at this point in games Rectory would be three or four up and cruising and Gilford would be crumbling, but not this week.
The Gilford lads were determined to prove a point and seemed to react positively to going behind.
They took the game to their opponents and only some fine goal-keeping and defending prevented them levelling the match.
In the 68th minute manager Stephen McArdle felt a change was needed and withdrew Stephen Donaghy to be replaced by Neil McDowell.
Within two minutes Gilford felt they should have had a penalty following a hand-ball but it was not given.
Gilford came right back into the match in 77 minutes when shirt sponsor John McAreavey rifled home a close range strike from Magee’s nod on.
The final 13 minutes were played at a breakneck pace, flowing from end to end as both teams mounted furious attacks to get all three points.
The end, when it came, was cruel and very unfortunate for Gilford who, surely, deserved some reward for their display on the day.
With less than one minute left on the clock Rectory won a corner, the ball was swung in but knocked into touch for a second corner.
As the seconds tortuously passed the ball was swung in. McKinstry called the ball as his but as he came to collect the ball cruelly ricocheted, allowing Rectory to bundle the ball over the line with the final whistle only seconds away
So, a devastating day for the Crues. They played well enough to merit at least a point but fate decided otherwise.
The Rectory Rangers management expressed their amazement at Gilford’s current league position and said this had been the hardest game they’ve had all year.
Next up for Gilford is an away trip to local rivals Scarva Rangers on Saturday 5th December at 2pm.
Meanwhile, Gilford Reserves lost 3-2 to Lower Maze in the first round of the O’Hara Cup.
Josh Crosset and Paedar Doran grabbed the goals for the locals.
Manager Fergie Anderson was pleased with the performance but disappointed with the result.