Sports

‘Mist’ opportunity for Swifts against champs

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A LATE David Cushley wonderstrike denied Dungannon Swifts what would have been a well-earned point on Saturday at home to champions Crusaders.

Dungannon Swifts...0
Crusaders...1

The Swifts had been more than a match for the men from Seaview for long spells, but Cushley popped up with an 85th minute thunderbolt of a free kick to grab all three points.

Dungannon had been well in the match and were the better side in the first half, with Andrew Mitchell really shining up top.

Ryan Harpur passed up the Swifts' best opportunity of the game, blazing over from close range in the first half.

The Swifts were particularly bright in the early stages of Saturday's clash at a fog covered Stangmore Park.

Up top for the Dungannon men, Andrew Mitchell was demonstrating why Saturday's opponents, among others, had made approaches to the club over the summer for his services.

The 22-year-old was ploughing a lone furrow for large spells, but his hold-up play, strength and bossing around of Crusaders centre backs Michael Gault and Howard Beverland was very impressive.

It was an engaging game, though with few clear cut opportunities, with the best efforts in the opening 15 minutes being a Terry Fitzpatrick snap shot which went well wide for Dungannon and a left wing Paul Heatley cross just evading the reach of Jordan Owens for the visitors.

However, on 19 minutes Dungannon maybe should have taken the lead.

Mitchell was torturing the Crusaders defence and chested down a ball into the right channel, turned Gault superbly and played in an excellent cross for Ryan Harpur to run on to at the near post, but he couldn't quite keep his effort down.

As the game livened up, Michael Carvill came close for Crusaders, his fantastic dipping volley from 25 yards out landing on the roof of the net.

Dougie Wilson then stung the palms of Crusaders' former Swifts goalkeeper Sean O'Neill with a fine free kick on 24 minutes.

And two minutes later Jordan Owens stabbed a fine cutback from Paul Heatley goalwards, but his effort was collected well by Andy Coleman in the Dungannon goal.

After that, the game settled back into its earlier pattern, with the Swifts looking bright and sharp, playing a more direct game than usual, which was proving fairly effective, without being able to make the breakthrough.

Five minutes into the second half, Dungannon almost took the lead in somewhat unusual circumstances.

A Paul McElroy inswinging corner cannoned back off the near post, with O'Neill looking to have been caught off guard by the winger's audacious effort.

Crusaders were more in the ascendancy in the second half, but were not able to find any real rhythm thanks to the fine pressing work of the Swifts, particularly through the likes of Terry Fitzpatrick and Dougie Wilson.

However, there was a great opening for the Crues in the 67th minute when a corner broke kindly to Jordan Owens, but his effort was charged down by a defender and gathered by Coleman.

Ryan Harpur then had another good opportunity at the other end three minutes later, the ball breaking to him in space on the edge of the area, but he rushed his effort and miscued his strike badly wide.

Andy Coleman, so superb a few weeks ago when the Swifts held Cliftonville to a draw, was at it again on 72 minutes against Cliftonville's north Belfast rivals.

Paul Heatley's neat back heel was ran on to by Gavin Whyte, who was clean through on goal. Coleman ran out to narrow the angle and saved Whyte's low effort brilliantly with his feet.

The pressure was building on Dungannon, though Crusaders were struggling to make many more chances.

But the breakthrough finally came with five minutes left on the clock.

Dougie Wilson lost the ball in midfield after dawdling in possession, and hauled back Gavin Whyte after the winger had nicked the ball off him, giving away a free kick 30 yards out.

Substitute David Cushley stepped up to take the free kick and let loose a thunderbolt which arrowed into Coleman's bottom left hand corner and send the Crusaders contingent into raptures.

Dungannon had no answer at that stage and Crusaders easily saw out the rest of the game to retain their seven point lead at the top of the Premiership.

The Swifts will hope to bounce back this Friday night when they travel to take on Mid-Ulster rivals Glenavon at Mourneview Park. Kick off this Friday, 2 December is at 7.45pm.

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