Linfield Swifts edge past Dromara Village
Linfield Swifts 2 Dromara Village 1
Linfield Swifts manager Sammy McFadden admits he is targeting a steady run in the Intermediate Cup this season after edging past Amateur League visitors Dromara Village at Midgley Park in the second round.
This is a competition that is traditionally difficult for any side outside of the Belfast Telegraph Championship to win, and with those teams from the upper echelons entering the fray in the next round, we will see who the genuine contenders really are.
Given the way in which the Swifts won this encounter on Saturday, coming back from a goal behind against a less fancied opponent, McFadden will surely have no concerns about his young squad underestimating any future hurdles that this competition throws at them.
The Wee Blues boss reflected: “We controlled the game for periods in the first half without really testing their keeper, and they got one shot on goal and put away a great finish.
“They were more of a physical team than us, and I knew if our boys passed shorter and quicker in the second half, we’d be alright.
“We know that the big guns will be in there now, your Carricks, Bangors and Dundelas, but it’s important we stay in there. The Reserve League season is short, and most of the games are usually played by the start of March, so this keeps your campaign going.
“Four of our regulars – Rodney Brown, TJ Murray, Dale Patton and Reece Glendinning – were off with the first team today, so I was delighted the boys that came in did such a good job. It doesn’t matter whether it was 2-1 or 5-0, the main thing is we are into the next round.”
As McFadden rightly pointed out, it was an uneventful first half with almost no goal-scoring opportunities whatsoever.
A few snatched half-chances looked to be as good as it was going to get, with Dromara’s Philip Kerr striking the side-netting after 10 minutes, while for the home side, Paul Smyth had a decent shot tipped wide by Kieran Gordon, and the sting from Sean Donelly’s driving effort was taken out by a defender’s interception.
However, just one minute shy of the half time whistle, Gerard Rooney chested the ball down outside the Linfield box and chipped the keeper brilliantly to give Dromara the lead at the perfect time.
The Division 1A boys began the second spell with the same attacking intent, with Rooney flicking just past the far post from a Kyle Hamilton corner and, soon after, Kerr getting an outstretched foot to a long-range Hamilton pass, only to send it over the bar.
Rooney, a thorn in the Wee Blues’ side up to this point, could well have doubled his tally in the 55th minute, but his header from a Hamilton free kick flew narrowly over the target.
Dromara would rue these missed opportunities, as it wasn’t long before the Swifts drew themselves onto level terms. The equaliser arrived in the 57th minute, courtesy of a well-placed diving header from Donnelly, who provided the finish Paul Smyth’s accurate cross deserved.
With their tails up, the Swifts looked to strike again from the restart, and Smyth’s powerful effort from all of 35 yards was matched by a superb sprawling save by Kieran Gordon, who parried it out for a corner.
Then, in the 65th minute, came the breakthrough moment for the Wee Blues. Jonny Frazer hit the post with a header, but thankfully for the hosts, Jack Smith was on-hand to poke the ball home.
And in the end, despite the fact that they are now out of the Intermediate Cup for another season, Dromara manager Gerard McMahon remained philosophical about the nature of their latest defeat.
He remarked: “Every defeat is a bad defeat, but in fairness, if you had offered me that before, I would probably have taken it.
“We came here expecting a tough game against a young Linfield side, and I felt we put in a decent performance. A lot of Premier League sides seem to be going younger with their reserve teams, and I think they are beginning to reap the benefits from it now.
“As far as I am concerned, if you are good enough, you are old enough. We had a 15-year-old and a 16-year-old playing for us today, and there were only two over the age of 25. We are promoting a team where people who play well enough get picked again, so it all bodes well for the future.”
And with only four points separating Dromara from the top of Division 1A, the future for the Villagers could be very bright indeed.
Jason Craughwell: Made several eye-catching stops. 8
Calum Byers: Got very little wrong. 7
Matthew Parker: Kept things straightforward. 7
Aaron Sills: Left nothing to chance. 7
Martin Bradley: Passing was spot on. 8
Karl Devine: Helped his team-mates step up in the second half. 7
Jonny Frazer: Tremendous work rate. 8
Jack Smith: Pressed hard to win the ball. 7
Paul Smyth: Good movement in the final third. 8
Sean Donnelly: Showed great poise for his goal. 8
Chris Begley: Hustled and harried throughout. 8
James Softley: On for Bradley, 76
Michael Edgar: On for Devine, 76
Reece Neale: Not used
Alex Moore: Not used
Kieran Gordon: Kept the deficit to a minimum. 7
Brendan McNeill: A solid enough showing. 7
Kyle Hamilton: Great service from the back. 8
Mark Drake: Hobbled off after a decent hour’s play. 7
Ruari McArde: Calm on the ball, strong in the tackle. 8
Gavin McElroy: Not short on effort. 7
Johnny Gregg: Covered plenty of ground. 7
Philip Kerr: Kept possession well. 7
Gerard Rooney: The biggest goal threat on the pitch. 8
Adam McDonald: Always looking to give team-mates an option. 8
Robert Coady: Kept positive when his side fell behind. 7
Ryan McVeigh: On for Drake, 60
Corey Geddis: On for Coady, 81
Adam Smyth: Not used
Paul Rice: Not used
MAN OF THE MATCH: Kyle Hamilton (Dromara Village). On the losing side, but for his efforts at both ends, he didn’t deserve to be.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Jack’s Smith’s 65th minute tap-in was the moment Linfield Swifts sealed their turnaround.
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Without question, it was Kieran Gordon’s fantastic dive to keep out Pau Smyth’s goal-bound shot from 35 yards.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: There were no standout individual errors in this hard-fought encounter.
Belfast Telegraph Digital