Gilford Crusaders back to winning ways

COMING off the back of two heavy defeats in the league Gilford were looking to get back to winning ways in this Marshall Cup second round tie.

The pitch, as ever, looked terrific as the teams faced off in the sweltering heat, which made for a lovely day for the supporters but not the players who had to run in these conditions.

Gilford were tested as early as the first minute when the Warrenpoint centre forward struck a ferocious shot from outside the box which Savage did well to turn round the post.

The opposition seemed to have the upper hand in the first 20 minutes of the game as they pressed forward. Only some fine defending from McCourt and O’Hare, who cleared the lines effectively, stopped Gilford from falling behind.

In the 18th minute Warrenpoint took the lead as some fine passing play saw a shot rifle in at the bottom corner.

As ever, for Gilford, going a goal down seemed to be the spur that was needed, and they stepped things up a gear in search of an equaliser. Eschewing the long ball in favour of a more controlled passing game they started to make inroads as Gartland and birthday boy Greenaway found the wide men, Donaghy and Mark Feeney, who then released the lighting fast front men Cunningham and Ruairi Feeney but both men were deemed to be offside.

It was the turn of the Warrenpoint defence to feel the pressure during this period.

The equaliser came in the 28th minute after Donaghy lofted the ball over the oncoming defence following a one two with Montgomery, this set up Ruairi Feeney to score the equaliser with a sweetly struck shot. He almost doubled his tally when a badly attempted header back to the goalie saw the ball fall to him only for the Warrenpoint goalie to block his shot from the edge of the box.

Gilford were not to be denied and in the 42nd minute Toner played a long ball forward. With Ruairi Feeney hassling, the Warrenpoint defender tried to play it back to his keeper, only to lob the ball over him leaving Mark Feeney to swoop in and casually stroke the ball into the net.

Crusaders started the second half in the same manner that they finished the first, playing well controlled passing football, making Warrenpoint do all the running.

A swiftly executed move of over 10 passes released Donaghy into the box and as he lined up to shot he was tackled from behind only for the referee to waive of appeals for a penalty saying the man had got the ball.

Gilford made their first substitution of the match in 62 minutes when McDowell replaced Mark Toner. This necessitated some changes with Greenaway moving to right back, Mark Feeney moving into the centre of midfield and McDowell playing wide right.

Gilford’s next great move came when Cunningham held the ball before passing inside to Mark Feeney who then played it out wide for Ruairi to play the ball into the box where the Warrenpoint keeper just managed to collect it.

Ruairi Feeney finally doubled his tally in the 64th minute when a fine pass from Cunningham saw him beat two defenders then round the keeper to stroke the ball home.

Warrenpoint now started to struggle somewhat as they tried to claw their way back into the match, picking up bookings for dissent. Ruairi Feeney was now tormenting the opposition defence skipping past them with ease only to see his efforts thwarted by the goal-keeper who was trying to redeem himself after some earlier blunders.

Gilford made their second change when Jon Lennon replaced Stephen Donaghy in the 89th minute. Both teams were now feeling the effects of having played in the heat but Gilford were still holding the edge.

With only five minutes remaining Warrenpoint grabbed their second of the game when they caught the Gilford defence standing. The shot from the edge of the box took a deflection which saw the ball loop over a helpless Savage into the net. Thankfully their comeback was short-lived and the referee soon brought the game to a close sending Gilford into the next round.

The next fixture is Saturday September 15 away to Coalisland Athletic in the league.