Toal strike earns Swifts a draw

SATURDAY past saw the Swifts make the relatively short trip to the Tandragee Road in Portadown to take on Annagh Reserves in a league match.

Played in strong sunshine the game started brightly for the swifts who are currently on a bit of a high and still unbeaten in league action.

The opening 20 minutes were all Rathfriland as they played some neat possession football from back to front not allowing Annagh to get a foothold in the match.

Their hard work in possession paid off when a move from right back into midfield saw the ball played into the right hand channel for Johnston to run onto and fire a dangerous cross across the six yard box were Heslip attacked it only for the home keeper to make a fine save with Toal arriving at the penalty spot to stoop and head home the opener.

The Annagh team took this as a wake up call and started to slowly edge their way back into the match. Rathfriland though were relentless in their defensive efforts and quick to thwart any attack before anything dangerous developed.

Wilton in the Rathfriland goal was called upon only to sweep up any forward balls that were overhit and punch a few crosses clear as Rathfriland frustrated the Annagh attackers.

The half time Whistle came at a good time for the swifts allowing them to regroup and halt Annaghs increasing dominance before too long.

The second half began with Rathfriland determined not to concede. Some sloppy play and poor decision making in key areas put the swifts under undue pressure and their forays forward were now few and far between.

They did however continue to causeproblems when they did break forward with pace and Joey Toal was presented with a glorious chance to double his tally and Rathfrilands lead when the swifts broke again down the right. Again with Johnston and Heslip involved Toal found himself arriving in the six yard box unmarked and the ball travelling towards him. He seemed to have an age, perhaps too long, to pick a spot to fire home. However he fired straight into the keepers grateful arms.

The Annagh continued to press and they were dangerous down the right with first team player Francis McCann using his pace and trickery to good effect when running at the Swifts backline. Wilton had more to do in the second half and was called upon on a couple of occasions as Annagh worked a couple of openings. He reacted quickly to block and save at the feet of an Annagh striker to maintain the swifts advantage.

Wilton could do nothing about the equaliser when it came. A throw on the right hand side was headed clear from the corner of the box to an Annagh player at the back of a line of swifts players.

The home winger hit a first time snap shot goalwards through a packed penalty box and it found the only spot where it couldn’t be saved - low to the inside of the base of the keepers near post. Wilton having saw in late tried to claw it away but it was too strongly hit.

Rathfriland now renewed their efforts and managed to shut the home side out for the remaining five minutes to preserve their unbeaten league form.

The Swifts host Seagoe reserves in the Mid-Ulster shield this Saturday in a break from league action.

Team: Wilton, Weir, Gibbons, Murray, Lawson, Johnston, Gilmore, Megaw (capt.) McComish, Toal, Heslip. Subs; Faulkner, Robb, Johnston.