Dungannon Swifts 2 Linfield 2
Linfield's lead at the top of the Carling Premiership is still three points but manager David Jeffrey, despite watching his side recover from a two-goal deficit, admitted the draw at Stangmore Park was two points dropped.
“The message at half-time was that we were doing well but should have been a goal to the good. The warning was not to get hit by a sucker punch early in the second half,” revealed Jeffrey.
“But we didn’t defend particularly well and Dungannon went two goals up.
“We got back into the game and I give credit for the fightback. However, last week when we lost to Portadown, it was an excellent performance and we just weren’t good enough. In this tie we certainly needed to do better.”
Jeffrey and his opposite number Dixie Robinson had to watch the last 20 minutes outside the field of play after being dismissed by referee David Malcolm when an exchange of views got out of control but the Blues boss played down the incident afterwards.
“We came together and a couple of words were exchanged. But that was the height of it and Dixie and myself ended up watching the match together behind the perimeter wall,” added Jeffrey.
Playing his part in winning Swifts a point was 18-year-old A-level student Niall Morgan, the toast of the Moygashel venue after a impressive goalkeeping display. And he was delighted with that.
“Bar two minutes at the end of the Crusaders game, this was my first involvement in the Irish League and it’s good to get a start,” he said.
“It was a memorable day for me and I would have been much happier with a win but a draw is a draw and there was not much we could have done about either goal.
“I was told a couple of weeks ago that I would be starting in this game as Alvin Rouse was due to be serving a ban. And I have to say that I was nervous going into it. But the players rallied round and gave me support.
“I am delighted that I didn’t make any serious mistakes that led to goals,” said Morgan, twice a MacRory Cup medal winner with St Patrick’s Academy.
With both teams seeking a return to winning ways after losing to Portadown, it was Swifts who responded better to their embarrassing 8-2 hammering a fortnight earlier.
Swifts were two goals ahead with 29 minutes remaining but a fightback from the league leaders and a controversial red card for centre half Andrew Ferguson conspired to deny the home side a memorable and arguably deserved victory.
Both teams entered the break reflecting on chances spurned, Swifts making amends with an early goal from Shane Coney, three minutes in.
Just after the hour, strike partner Timmy Adamson marked his return from a couple of games lay-off with the best finish of the day before Linfield launched their comeback via a Paul Munster header on 67 minutes.
The impact of the extra man didn’t really pay dividends until three minutes from the end, when Steven Douglas headed in the equaliser.
It seemed more likely that The Blues would go onto win in five minutes of injury time but determined Dungannon twice went close, Coney missing from point-blank range and Ryan McIlmoyle forcing a save.