Forker leaves it late to snatch Swifts a point
Dungannon Swifts 1 Ballymena United 1: Late, late drama finished with honours even at Stangmore Park, the point perhaps not to the satisfaction of the managers as no doubt they will each have arguments why all three should have been theirs.
Gary McCutcheon looked to have won it for the Braidmen when he netted, but substitute Conor Forker pounced for a Swifts equaliser in stoppage time.
Swifts had enjoyed the best of the play over the 90 minutes but again struggled to score, while Ballymena will claim a disallowed goal should have stood 20 minutes from time, controversial use of the advantage rule denying them.
Dungannon’s best play came in the opening half.
Johnny Topley was narrowly off target when he got on the end of a Dermot McCaffrey pass, the effort sliced just wide.
Ballymena had a couple of chances midway through the half, Alan Teggart wasting his chance and McCutcheon with a low drive straight at Swifts keeper Niall Morgan.
Swifts were back on top on 33 minutes, with Michael Funston curling a shot from the left just wide of the far post.
The best chance of the half came on 40 minutes when Terry Fitzpatrick slipped a pass inside to Topley. From 25 yards out, he blasted a rising drive at the United goal that required a superb parry from Scott Drummond to deflect the ball over the bar.
Both teams could have entered the halftime interval with a confidence-boosting lead, Aaron Stewart heading just wide for the visitors while Johnny Montgomery fired a low free inches wide of the target in injury time.
The action continued in the second half. Five minutes in, Swifts defender Adam McMinn missed giving his side the lead by the narrowest of margins when he headed a McCaffrey corner just over with Teggart forcing a quality save from Morgan with a shot after traversing the 18 yard line.
Ballymena improved as the game progressed and McCutcheon had the ball in the net on 70 minutes only for referee Mark Courtney to disallow the strike, calling play back for a foul on Aaron Stewart on the edge of the box. The decision angered the visitors’ bench.
A goal did come for the visitors on 88 minutes when McCutcheon coolly dribbled round two defenders on the left of the box before shooting low inside the far post.
But the introduction of Forker proved a crucial decision from manager Rodney McAree as the striker headed an equaliser with his first touch in the first of three minutes of injury time.
Dungannon Swifts: Morgan, O’Neill, Montgomery, McMinn, McClean, Fitzpatrick, McCaffrey, Funston, Murphy, Topley, Ward Subs – Forker for McClean 89, McGerrigan for McCaffrey 65, P Donnelly, L Donnelly, McKerr for Funston 65.
Ballymena United: Drummond, Kane, Vauls, Stewart, McCutcheon, Jenkins, Carson, Teggart, Surgenor, Downey, Munster Subs – Taggart for Downey 72, Costello, Woods, Lowry for Carson 67, Rodgers.
Referee: Mark Courtney, Dungannon.