Swifts suffer their fourth opening day defeat in a row

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Swifts suffer their fourth opening day defeat in a row thumbnailSummer signing Corey McMullan battles for the ball in Saturday's league opener against Ballymena United. dd183257

Dungannon Swifts 0 Ballymena United 2


UNGANNON Swifts continued their unwanted trend of suffering opening day defeat after losing their fourth curtain raiser in a row to Ballymena United on Saturday.
Two unanswered goals from David Jeffrey's men dampened the optimistic atmosphere around a sunny Stangmore Park after a promising pre-season.
However, just like Coleraine, Glentoran and Carrick Rangers before them, Ballymena caught Dungannon cold in early August and left with all three points as the Danske Bank Premiership got underway for another season.
A busy summer of recruitment saw a much-changed Sky Blues team from last year's League Cup final defeat to the Mid-Ulster men take the field, but it was two old faces in Willie Faulkner and Tony Kane who netted the goals.
It was the away side who started the better of the two teams, and with only four minutes on the clock, a poor clearance fell to Jonathan McMurray, who played in former Swifts midfielder Ryan Mayse, but he saw his right footed effort landed just wide.
The same duo caused more problems later in the half, with McMurray playing a one-two with Mayse before firing wide from a glorious position.
The Swifts didn't improve despite the warning signs and the goal came on the 32nd minute when a perfectly weighted pass into the box found Faulkner, who punished the defence's lapse in concentration a finely executed first-time lob over teenage goalkeeper Alex Moore.
A further first half setback came for the Dungannon men after Grant Hutchinson suffered an injury and had to be replaced by Ally Teggart only three minutes after the deadlock was broken.
Whatever was said in the dressing room at half time seen Dungannon come out the second half like a different team and immediately chased an equaliser.
Cormac Burke, Daniel Hughes and Chris Hegarty all had chances but none of the efforts landed on target within 10 minutes of the restart.
However, it was Ballymena who got the all important second goal and ultimate sucker punch in the 55th minute.
And it was the returning Mayse, who had a fine game on his Sky Blues debut, who was fouled in the box by Chris Hegarty.
The referee pointed to the spot before booking Hegarty. Up stepped Kane, who made no mistake, sending the Linfield-loanee the wrong way.
Dungannon's afternoon went from bad to worse when Hegarty was shown a second yellow card in the 67th minute and was sent off.
The home side didn't throw the towel in and had their best chance of the game after a mix-up between defenders Andrew Burns and Jonny Addis saw the ball drop to new signing Marcio Soares, but the second half substitute shot wide of the far post.
Ballymena almost grabbed a third on the counter late on, but Shane McGinty's strike hit the crossbar, before Adam Lecky was unable to convert the rebound.
Swifts boss Rodney McAree wants more goals this term, and admits they have to improve.
“We got off to a bad start last season and we want to try and get points on the board as quickly as possible this time," he said.
“We want to start creating more chances than what we have done today.
“In the second half I thought we created a few, but we haven't pulled enough saves out of Ross Glendinning, so we have to do better."
And while it was a disappointing start, McAree knows there is no point in feeling down. "The players are still getting themselves 100 per cent fit," he added.
"At the end of the day we can't look on one defeat at the start of the season as being how our season will pan out.
“We have got to look at it, take the positives and get the negatives out of the way, and try and build on the positives going forward."
McAree was encouraged by the performance of his summer signings, with three starting the opening game, but particularly the display of 19-year-old 'keeper Alex Moore.
“I thought he did extremely well - it's difficult because he has only had a week with us," he added.
David Jeffrey felt the timing of Ballymena's goals was key as they made a flying start to the new Danske Bank Premiership season.
“We are pleased - I'm on record as stating that Dungannon, under Rodney McAree, are one of the finest football teams in the league," said Jeffrey.
“This is never, ever, an easy place to come, and obviously we've so many new players to integrate in.
“It is one thing doing that in pre-season, but when the competition starts it's totally different. For me the story of the game was getting goals at crucial times of the game."
Jeffrey added: "The credit must go to the players because we can give them direction and instructions, but unless the players buy into it, it doesn't have any effect.
“This is a fine group of young men that we've been able to bring together and they really are buying into all that we're asking of them."



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