Derbies are no strangers to drama and there was plenty of it in the final 30 minutes of Saturday’s derby encounter at Scarva Park.
The game was scoreless until that point but the ensuing half hour produced a red card and four goals, including an exquisite last gasp strike from the visitors to ensure the game ended with honours even.
As the game started to settle, it became apparent that Gilford would have to dig deep to overcome Scarva’s physicality. This they did, with some style, and could have taken the lead in the 7th minute when Connor Arlow’s long ball released Stephen Donaghy who lobbed the keeper only to see his effort stopped by the bar.
Both sides had opportunities in the first half to break the deadlock, including from set pieces, but none could be capitalised on and when the half-time whistle sounded the score was 0-0.
Early in the second half a Gregory Douglas free kick drifted just over the crossbar and skimmed the top of the net.Kyle Foster then volleyed narrowly over the bar from a Jason McClelland throw in and there was a growing sense the game’s first goal wasn’t far away.
Gilford were also creating chances as Magee turned the defender and passed to Donaghy whose effort fell short of his own exacting standards.
Scarva’s physical side of the game came to the fore in the 67th minute when a needless and reckless tackle on Breen saw Stephen Gass red carded, putting his team-mates under pressure and giving Gilford an advantage in numbers.
They swiftly cashed in on that advantage when a stunning passing move involving Scullion, McCrory and Barry released Magee in the box and he rounded the keeper to stroke the ball home.
It looked ominous for the hosts but their response was magnificent.
Gregory Douglas was impeded close to the corner of the Gilford penalty area and lofted the resulting free kick invitingly to the back post where Alex Hammond rose powerfully and sent a towering header screeching into the corner of the net.
Back on level terms, Scarva were soon ahead for the first time in the game.
A Jason McClelland throw in was nodded down into the path of Foster by Alex Hammond and Foster’s deft touch steered the ball into the corner of the Crusaders net.
From being 1-0 up and well in control, Gilford now faced a nervous final 10 minutes against an enlivened opponent.
With nothing to lose and everything to gain Gilford threw everything bar the kitchen sink as they sought to salvage a point at least from a match they had no right to lose.
This approach paid dividends bang on 90 minutes when Scullion played a perfectly weighted pass for Magee to latch on to and grab his second of the day and a well-deserved equaliser.
The final whistle blew shortly after the restart, the two neighbouring sides forced to settle for a point apiece.
Best for Scarva – Gregory Douglas and Rod Douglas.
Gilford’s next fixture is away to Armagh Celtic on February 27th, kick off 2.15pm.