THE Swifts travelled to Armagh on Saturday past to take on unbeaten league leaders Armagh City Reserves.
Having twice led in the return fixture only to lose 4-2 the locals felt they had a chance of producing a shock if they could contain a youthful footballing Armagh side a take whatever chances fell their way.
Things got off to a bad start though when after arriving in Armagh the swifts realised the skip was sitting in someone’s work van in Rathfriland Square. Fair play to the home side who went out of their way to help and produced a kit on loan from Lisanally Rangers.
The game got kicked off a little later than scheduled but the reshuffled Swifts side were intent on frustrating heir opponents.
Rathfriland were content to let Armagh play the football in front of them and whenever they crossed the half way line the Rathfriland lads hustled and harried them superbly.
It was clear to see just why this Armagh side were unbeaten in the league as they controlled a lot of the possession with relative ease.
The Swifts’ hearts were broken when an inoccuous looking effort spun up and bounced in front of Curran who inexplicably fumbled the ball over the line to present Armagh with a gift of a goal.
To their credit they kept their effort levels up and at the other end good hustling from young Mark McDonald saw him presented with a chance and he fired narrowly wide from the corner of the box.
That partnership up front with Toal really were feeding off scraps and aligned with the fact that the Armagh centre back Davidson has been a regular first team member in recent weeks meant that the duo were really up against it.
In midfield the Armagh side played five with Gilmore and Johnston tasked with trying to contain three quality players, one of which who pulled the strings, former Glenavon Academy starlet Grimley.
The wide players Hollingsworth and McCracken worked their socks off as Armagh really did move the ball well in the wide areas. Down the Armagh right flank they were particularly dangerous and McCracken combined well with young Stephen at left back to contain the tricky winger Murphy.
Alex Scott made the step up from the Colts and did well at centre back with captain Jackson influential in defence also. The right sided full back Bell did well and was cool under pressure.
The Swifts saw out the first half with Curran making a couple of notable stops and Gilmore twice sliding in to make last ditch blockages and tackles inside the box as the winger was pulling the trigger.
A change at half time saw Megaw, who had returned from Rathfriland, with the kit take his place in centre midfield along with Gilmore. Johnston pushed forward with Toal while McDonald replaced Bready at left back and the second half commenced with the Swifts game plan unchanged.
The Armagh side were handed a great chance one minute in but Curran reacted well to keep the score1-0.
Then with five minutes gone the tricky winger skipped past a few challenges and was uncerimoniously upended near the corner of the box.
The resulting free kick was rolled to the right and curled into the top right of the Swifts net to leave them with a mammoth task at 2-0.
They battled on and did create a great chance when a lung busting run from Johnston saw him get to the Armagh six yard box but surrounded by defenders. Gilmore had kept pace with him and stopped his run at the penalty spot where Johnston expertly pulled back to him. Gilmore swung wildly and only partially connected but the ball broke for McCracken on the edge of the box with the goal at his mercy. He had time for a touch but unfortunately his first touch was heavy and the chance went.
Armagh went up the other end and it just wasn’t Curran’s day as a similar effort to the first one was again spilled into the net to cap a miserable day.
Next up for the Swifts is Loughgall at home on Wednesday night who are second in the league table and hunting after Armagh for the title so perhaps the Swifts might have a say in who takes the trophy.
Team; Curran, Bready, Jackson, Scott, Bell, Hollingsworth, Gilmore, Johnston, McCracken, McDonald, Toal. Subs; Megaw, Ward.