THE Swifts Reserves made the short trip to Banbridge for a top of the table derby clash.
Rathfriland were eager to put some distance between themselves and their chasing rivals.
The intent was clear from the opening minutes, the front line of O’Reilly and Hillen chasing the home defence at every opportunity and applying pressure.
This unsettled the AFC team and it wasn’t long until the breakthrough came, Gary O’Reilly rose well to head into his strike partner’s path and Ryan Hillen coolly nutmegged the keeper.
The Swifts continued to create chance after chance, the second goal eventually came from the trusty right foot of Niall Maginn, converting from a well delivered corner.
The backline was marshalled by Jackson, Scott and Daryl O’Reilly, thwarting any threat that the home side presented. The midfield dominated throughout the half, moving the ball well and controlling the tempo of the game.
Paul Hillen’s neat footwork and accurate passing allowed Hynes to break into the box, his effort bounced off the bar, but he reacted quickly and steered his header into the net under strong pressure.
The half time whistle sounded with Rathfriland good value for their 3-0 lead.
Banbridge started the second half much better, and proved more of a threat with a long ball tactic, a partially cleared header fell into the path of the left winger and his cleanly struck strike was drilled into the bottom corner.
Rathfriland reacted well and pushed to increase their lead. The fourth goal came from a brilliant team move, Parsons feeding Ryan Hillen who beat his man and crossed accurately to O’Reilly who powered his header across goal into the net.
The visitors weren’t satisfied with four and in pushed to score more, Maginn and O’Reilly unlucky not to add to their tallies.
Banbridge were a threat on the break, but the introduction of Gordon Johnston brought some experience to the backline.
As the Swifts pressed forward late on, they were caught with a swift AFC break, stand in ‘keeper Neil Graham pushing a strong effort around the post. From the resultant corner Banbridge got a second. In the dying moments Neil Goodwin was denied his first goal of the season when the referee blew for full time, just as Goodwin struck the ball into the net.
The result goes down as 4-2 and Goody will have to wait for his first of the year.
A strong team performance with great movement and team spirit brought a vital 3 points. The same again will be required this week when second placed Dungannon make the trip to Rathfriland.