RATHFRILAND played their first match in seven weeks on Saturday past at Crystal Park against local rivals Banbridge Town Reserves.
Having not played competitively for such a long spell rustiness was to be expected. Still few would have predicted what was to unfold in the opening 25 minutes.
Inside five minutes the Swifts shipped their first goal when Lawson was caught the wrong side of an attacker as the ball was hit 50 yards over the top. The striker gobbled up his chance burying rhe ball into the roof of Currans net.
Worse was to follow when five minutes later Murray caught the heel of the young striker who grabbed his chance and threw himself to the floor resulting in the referee awarding a slightly dubious penalty. The penalty was expertly dispatched to leave Rathfriland with a real uphill task ahead against what was by now a rampant Banbridge.
The Rathfriland lads had been shooting themselves in the foot with schoolboy errors all over the park combined with a genuine lack of commitment effort and hunger and what was expected to be a closely fought derby battle was a one sided affair.
At the other end the Swifts still managed to create chances and Hollingsworth really should have converted when unmarked at the back post. Wilson had a penalty shout waved away as the referee ruled that the foul took place outside the box.
The Swifts also managed to strike the bar and Wilson also managed to fire over when well placed.
The Swifts always looked dodgy when defending and when Banbridge played a corner short and fired the ball across goal it was diverted home by an unmarked player inside the six yard box.
Three goals down with only 30 minutes gone things did not look good for the locals. They steadied the ship however and Curran made one notable save to keep the Swifts within touching distance as the half came to an end.
With harsh words at half time the Swifts came out with more purpose in the second half. Immediately the ball was being moved quicker around the Crystal park pitch.
Also when defending the Swifts were now really hustling their counterparts - something that did not happen in the whole first half. The game had now swung on the swifts favour with Curran not being forced into a single save in the second half. A lot of the play was concentrated in the Banbridge half and the introduction of Heslip combined with Aaron Robb brought more strength into the side.
Rathfriland forced a number of corners which Banbridge defended stoutly and their young keeper was in excellent form also. Rathfriland got a goal back when a corner from Robb was swung to the near post and glanced home by Heslip who reacted quickest to reduce the deficit.
Joey Toal returning to action after a break in Australia also then had a chance to reduce it to one when Heslip linked with Gilmore and the latter fired goalwards where Toal swept a shot towards goal from six yards unfortunately into the waiting arms of the young keeper.
The game ended with the swifts in control however the first half performance destroyed any chance they might have had of taking anything from this game. A home fixture against league challengers Loughgall next week will be a real test but one that will not be shirked as long as effort and commitment levels from Saturday’s second half are carried into that game.
Team: Curran, Lawson, Murray, Jackson, Johnston, Hollingsworth, Gilmore, A. Megaw, K. Megaw, Wilson, Toal, Subs: Heslip, Jackson, Robb.