Championship side Donegal Celtic hold a slender advantage over Premier League Dungannon Swifts ahead of Friday’s second-leg play-off game after snatching victory at a wet and windy Celtic Park last night.
A double substitution gamble by Celtic boss Paddy Kelly paid off when James Lavery and Paul McDonald combined to hit the winner in the 87th minute, the latter tapping the ball into the visitors’ net with his first touch of the ball.
The west Belfast side had squandered an eighth minute lead early in the second-half but grabbed a vital win at a time when Dixie Robinson’s men were creating havoc in the Celtic defence.
Celtic’s eighth minute lead was gifted to them by Swifts keeper Alvin Rouse. After collecting a back-pass and with time to clear the ball, he allowed Lyons to chase what seemed like a lost cause and, in a moment of panic, hit the Celtic striker’s feet with the ball and could only look on helplessly as it trickled over the goal-line.
Brendan Shannon came close twice before the interval with long-range efforts but gradually — and in spite of the conditions — it was the Premier League side that was playing with greater composure.
In the 43rd minute Swifts registered a first shot on target, former Limavady United winger Ryan McIlmoyle forcing Celtic keeper Declan Brown to make a smart save.
Swifts’ ascendancy paid dividends five minutes into the second-half when Timmy Adamson scored with a free header from Rodney McAree’s corner.
With time running out McAllister’s cross was met by substitute Lavery, who delivered the ball back across the face of goal for fellow substitute McDonald to score.
DONEGAL CELTIC: Brown, Heagney, McAlorum, Shannon, Spence, Watson, Munster, Bradley, Lyons, McAllister, Gargan. Subs: Lavery (for Lyons 82), McClean, Caldwell, McDonald (for Gargan 82), Dynes.
Dungannon SWIFTS: Rouse, Mullan, McAlliskey, Montgomery, McMinn, Hegarty, McCafferty, McAree, Adamson, Forker, McIlmoyle. Subs: McCann (for Forker 67), McKee, McManus (for McCafferty 83), Slater, McGerrigan.
Referee: B Turkington (Belfast).