Swifts survive a late scare to shake off Holywood
Holywood 3 - Bangor Swifts 5
For most teams, the first day of the new league season is all about getting three points on the board. And while Bangor Swifts manager Hugh Wilson will have been delighted to have done just that, he’ll hope his side can do it in a much more convincing manner than they did on Saturday, more often than not.
With a 2-1 lead over Holywood at half time, the Swifts had increased their advantage by two more goals within the next 20 minutes, only to be pulled back to 4-3 with 15 minutes to play. The victory was eventually rubber-stamped with an 87th minute header from Stephen Clark, but Wilson insists the outcome was never in doubt.
“I felt we were the only team that was going to win,” stated the victorious gaffer afterwards. “Holywood competed well, but all the football came from us. If we had been a bit more clinical in front of goal, we could have won by a lot more.
“Conceding goals and letting teams back into games were problems we had last season, and I didn’t want to bring them into this season, but overall I am pleased with the performance today.”
Those concerns would surely have been foremost in Wilson’s mind as he watched the Swifts fall behind within just six minutes. They failed to clear from a Eunan Donnelly corner, allowing Steven Andrew to slot the ball down the middle of the goal.
However, the Swifts were only behind for a minute, as Daryl McNeill was sent through with a ball from deep and, spotting Ian Beegle off his line, he lobbed the Holywood keeper expertly from just outside the area.
Wilson’s men were the team in the ascendancy by the 20th minute, thanks to a well-placed corner from Clark, which was nodded home at close quarters by the predatory Ryan McCready.
With that goal already to his name, McCready attempted to double his tally in a similar fashion from a dangerous Chris Boyd cross five minutes later, but it was well saved by the sprawling Beegle.
The first half was lively, yet it picked up yet again with plenty of action in a frantic second spell.
McPeake was kept busy only seconds from the restart with a double save from the feet of McNeill, then McCready on the rebound.
If anyone was beginning to question McNeill for his wastefulness as he thrashed a 53rd minute attempt wildly almost 20 feet over the bar, he soon answered them as he chested the ball down near the edge of the box, before tucking it sweetly inside the right post.
Then, in the 65th minute, it looked as if Darren Delargy had put the result beyond doubt, as he glided through the Holywood back line virtually unchallenged to thump a low drive into the bottom left corner.
Holywood assistant manager Dean Nelson, who was standing in for first team boss Bobby Murphy, brought on Michael Hammon in place of Eunan Donnelly, and within a minute of his 70th minute introduction, the substitute had capitalised on a poor defensive header from Matthew Scott to finish off a straightforward tap-in.
Two minutes later, and the deficit was down to a single goal, as a Brian Galloway free kick was merely parried by Connor McPeake into the path of Ruari McGrillan, who shot home close range to leave Swifts supporters with furrowed brows.
After all their good work, however, Holywood were left frustrated as referee Keith Furlonger showed a second yellow card to Connor McKeown for dissent, as he disputed a throw-in decision.
Nevertheless, Holywood still pressed well, and an equaliser appeared a realistic possibility. That is, until the 87th minute, when a Swifts counter-attack ended with Stephen Clarke heading in from a fine Matthew Neill cross.
A realistic Nelson was left to take the positives from an eventful afternoon for Holywood.
“The boys battled well,” he said, “especially considering what we had today, with injuries and holidays.
“We got our noses in front, and I felt the equaliser was coming late on, but it wasn’t to be.
“The club is still stabilising after a difficult period, so for us, it will all be about consolidating our place in Division 1C this season. These things take time – they don’t just happen overnight.”
Ian Beegle: Will have happier afternoons. 5
Ruairi McGrillan: Outdone on several occasions. 5
Connor McKeown: A steady showing. 6
Richard Patton: Not a performance to catch the eye. 5
Jay Herron: Assured in the tackle. 7
Steven Andrew: Drifted in and out of the game. 5
Gavin Higginson: Work rate will have pleased the manager. 7
James McCullough: Tireless, chased everything down. 8
Eunan Donnelly: Excellent delivery an asset. 7
Mark Crawford: Taken off early in the game. 5
Andrew Hairfield: Touch a little heavy at times. 6
Michael Hammond: On for Donnelly, 70
Gareth McCausland: On for Hairfield, 60
Steven Verner: On for Crawford, 36
Connor McPeake: Did reasonably well despite conceding three. 7
Matthew Scott: Got forward when needed. 7
Stephen Clark: Strong in defence and set pieces. 8
Ryan Wilson: Did what was asked of him. 6
William Cameron: Didn’t let much past him. 7
James Smyth: Didn’t make a huge impact. 6
Brian Galloway: Did a fair job of linking up the play. 7
Darren Delargy: Showed good close control. 7
Ryan McCready: An instinctive finishing touch. 8
Daryl McNeill: Always the danger man. 9
Chris Boyd: Solid physical display. 7
Mark Scott: On for McCready, 50
Gary Moore: On for Smyth, 76
Ryan McBride: On for Dickson, 74
MAN OF THE MATCH: Daryl McNeill (Bangor Swifts). His desire and hunger for goals was duly rewarded with a brace.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH: When Ruari McGrillan netted in the 73rd minute to bring Holywood to 4-3, having been 4-1 down, it was ‘game on.’
SAVE OF THE MATCH: Ian Beegle’s impressive double stop from Daryl McNeill, then Ryan McCready was the highlight of a difficult afternoon for the Holywood goalkeeper.
BLOOPER OF THE MATCH: The attempted clearance from Matthew Scott which he headed straight to Michael Hammond, who gratefully tapped in Holywood’s second.