Fitzpatrick fires Swifts to vital win in survival push
Dungannon Swifts 1-0 Ballymena United
Terry Fitzpatrick scored his first goal of the season as Dungannon Swifts boosted their survival hopes with a crucial victory.
The midfielder's first half header was enough to beat a lacklustre Ballymena side.
The Sky Blues, perhaps with one eye already on their upcoming Irish Cup semi-final, were rarely in the game.
On another night Dungannon could have won by more, but the result was all-important for manager Darren Murphy. Swifts are now seven points clear of the drop zone, although they have played a game more than the rest.
Nevertheless, Murphy will feel this was a giant step towards survival for his Dungannon side.
The only goal of the game came in the 34th minute.
Matt Hazley swung over a corner which was met by Fitzpatrick. His header struck the post and was ruled to have crossed the line by the assistant.
Some Ballymena fans felt there had been a foul on the goalkeeper in the lead-up. And the visitors' mood wasn't helped when another big decision went against them on the stroke of half-time.
Eamonn McAllister was taken down in the box for what looked a certain penalty. Crucially, though, the referee didn't agree.
McAllister took his protests a step too far, and ended up being shown a yellow card.
Aside from all the drama, the opening half wasn't short on chances. After 20 seconds Gary Thompson's low strike crept past the post. Soon afterwards Jamie Glackin crossed to Hazley who turned and shot just wide.
Later Gary Liggett and Fitzpatrick got in each other's way as both tried to meet a cross from the impressive Hazley.
Then, just before he scored, Fitzpatrick had a goal-bound effort blocked.
The early minutes of the second period were disrupted by a series of minor injuries, setting the tone for a poor half.
Dungannon introduced Andrew Mitchell after an hour and his first task was to work Tim Allen. Taking down a free-kick from Hazley, he turned smartly but saw his low strike tipped wide by the goalkeeper.
Ballymena, missing the suspended Allan Jenkins and playing against a driving wind, offered precious little.
Instead Dungannon could have wrapped it up in the 75th minute when Glackin headed down for Mitchell, but he fired over.
Late on Allen produced a terrific save to tip over Stefan Lavery's curling effort.