RATHFRILAND Swifts Reserves travelled to play Lurgan thistle Reserves.
On league form it appeared the three points wouldn’t be hard to prise away from the Lurgan outfit, but form doess’t win matches as the Swifts Reserves found out.
The Swifts travelled with a makeshift defence with the absence of Jackson and it wasn’t long before they were tested, a strengthened Lurgan side, applying pressure from the start.
A series of attacks were thwarted, however Lurgan eventually found the opening when an attacker ran clear from what looked like an offside position to neatly finish.
The Swifts Reserves levelled through a strange penalty decision, the ref pointing to the spot when the ‘keeper placed the ball for a kick out but passed across the six yard line to a defender who then picked up ball to re-place for the kick out. Daryl O’Reilly hammered his penalty into the net with confidence.
Niall Maginn brought out the best in the Lurgan ‘keeper cutting in from the left hand side and his effort looked bound for the top corner. Within five minutes the Swifts found themselves 31down, on both occasions the ball over the top was not dealt with by defence or keeper.
Rathfriland tried to get their game going before half time, but on a narrow pitch against a well organised Lurgan midfield they found it difficult to carve out opportunities, Gary O’Reilly and Cathal Tumility having the best of the chances but not hitting the target.
Rathfriland were eager to get out in the second half and take the game to Lurgan, but in their efforts they were caught on the break, McGivern left exposed again by his defence and Lurgan made it four.
The Swifts changed formation and the heart and desire of the league leaders began to show, neat play through midfield and from wide positions began to press Lurgan back onto their 18 yard line, a cutting pass from Hillen found Gary O’Reilly, his first touch was excellent and his second rolled it under the advancing ‘keeper.
The visitors were keen to get the game re-started and attacked Lurgan again in serch for the third, another fine ball from midfield found the well timed run of Tumility, his strong strike was brilliantly saved by the Lurgan number one. Moments later Cathal did well to hold off a defender’s challenge in the area and turned well to find the net with his strike.
With five minutes left Rathfriland pressed for a fourth, Goodwin unlucky not to convert with a left footed strike. In the the dying moments Rathfriland threw everyone, including goalkeeper McGivern at a corner, but wer unable to find the equalizer.
In summary Rathfriland gave themselves too much to do, to date defence had been the base which let attacks flow, however against a strengthened Lurgan side this was tactic was found wanting. The league leaders have some learning to do if they are to remain in the driving seat. As league leaders they carry the tag of the team to beat and this is a challenge to overcome.