Dungannon Swifts 2 Glenavon 2
Dungannon Swifts and Glenavon will be more than familiar with each other in the coming weeks, this draw at Stangmore Park the first of three consecutive meetings between the sides.
They face off again in the league on Thursday night, before they battle it for silverware on April 11 in the final of the Mid-Ulster Cup.
And Swifts were well placed to kick off the series of meetings with a morale-boosting victory.
With 40 minutes played they led by two goals and had an extra man, but they couldn’t improve on that position.
In fact, they were lucky to end the game with a point after a spirited comeback from the Lurgan team.
Swifts led on nine minutes after a wonderful 20 yard free-kick from Dermot McCaffrey, gained a one man advantage and doubled their lead on 39 minutes when Michael Ward converted a penalty after Andrew Plummer was dismissed for a reactionary foul on Michael Funston.
Seemingly coasting, the hosts conceded right at the break when Trevor Molloy glanced a Gary Hamilton free into the net.
That goal was a boost to the Mourneview Park side; they dominated the remainder of the tie, despite having only 10 men.
Ryan Harpur and Mark Miskimmin had chances before Hamilton converted a spot-kick, awarded after Ryan Mullan had fouled Harpur.
Glenavon pushed on for a winner with Molloy’s 90th minute header hurriedly scraped off the line, while Hamilton hit the crossbar in injury time from a 25 yard free as Swifts disappointingly only managed to bring rookie stand-in keeper Mark Haughey into action once in his 50 minutes between the posts.
Dungannon defender McCaffrey gave an honest assessment after the game in which he bagged his sixth goal of the season.
“We were lucky to get a draw,” he admitted.
“The turning point was conceding just before half-time. Sloppy defending and poor passing cost us after that.
“Our target for the second-half was to get the shots in, test their keeper and seek mistakes, but we found it hard against 10 men.
“There's plenty still to play for; we now need to focus on securing our place in the top flight.
“A point helps, but we need to keep going until we are mathematically secure” added the former Hibernian centre-half.