Armagh City 2-1 Sport and Leisure Swifts
A powerful first-half performance set the seal on this much-needed Championship Two win for Armagh City at Holm Park on Saturday.
In fact, the local side should have been out of sight at the break after creating numerous chances but only managed to convert once to lead narrowly at the half-way stage.
And, in the second-half, despite doubling their lead, City contrived to make life difficult for themselves and had to withstand a late onslaught from the Swifts. Armagh had an early chance when striker Adam Nesbitt had an effort closed down by excellent Sport and Leisure ‘keeper Damien Nugent.
But the big stopper was all at sea on 20 minutes when a flick by Nesbitt completely deceived him but, unfortunately for City, the ball also floated over the crossbar.
Midway through the half Armagh’s right-sided wide-man, Marty Lavery, cleverly broke into the opposion box but his shot was saved by the legs of the advancing Nugent. The cleared ball was picked up by Nesbitt 20-yards out and he drilled a powerful low shot just beyond an upright.
At this stage Armagh were carving the opposition apart and should have taken the lead on 35 minutes when a shot by Gavin Cusack was saved by the feet of the outstanding Nugent. Nesbitt again followed-up but the striker was strongly tackled as he was about to pull the trigger. A darting run from left-sided wide-man Chris Maxwell also ended in failure when Nugent made yet another excellent stop to deny the rampant City outfit.
The breakthrough, however, eventually came on 40 minutes when an inswinging corner from Dale Montgomery was contested in the box and the ball drifted to the back-post where Cusack pounced to head home from close range.
Half-time: Armagh City 1 Sport and Leisure Swifts 0.
City were slow to come out of the starting blocks after the break and received early scares from Swifts’ strikers Tony Heagney and Darren Gallagher.
But the home side were able to settle again when they notched their second score on 52 minutes. On this occasion a superb through ball from Liam Cullen found the onrushing Nesbitt. On seeing the danger, Nugent rushed out of goal but was beaten to the ball by the pace of the Armagh forward who poked it home from 10-yards out.
City seemed to be cruising to a comfortable win but Sport and Leisure dragged themselves back into the match on 70 minutes. There seemed little danger when Hugh Dargan collected the ball some 25-yards from the City goal. However, the midfielder fired a superb shot into the corner of the City net, giving the diving Sean Morgan no chance.
For the remainder of the match Swifts piled forward to try and grab the equaliser. They created several scoring opportunities through Kevin Duff, James Daly and the lively Heagney which were hastily cleared by the under presssure City defence.
However, Armagh held their ground and ran out narrow but deserving winners. The only drawback for City in this encounter was the departure of teenage centre-back Dara Noonan on 15 minutes. But he had a very capable deputy in under 18 Youth Cup star Jamie Crooks who had an outstanding match. Another Armagh teenage replacement, Barry Quinn, also showed tremendous ability during his 25 minute stint at senior level. But, overall, this was a gutsy all-round team display with each and every squad member playing their part in this important victory!
Armagh City: Sean Morgan, Dale Montgomery, Ryan McGerrigan, Gerard Kerr, Dara Noonan (Jamie Crooks on 15), Matthew Hynds, Marty Lavery (Barry Quinn on 70), Liam Cullen, Gavin Cusack, Adam Nesbitt, Chris Maxwell (Sean Mallon on 84). Sub not used: James Nesbitt.
Sport and Leisure Swifts: Damien Nugent, Noel Cardwell, Darren Munster (y/c), Hugo Dargan, Daniel Largey (Johan Donan on 45), Kevin Duff, Jim O’Neill, Tony Heagney, James Daly, Darren Gallagher (y/c, Gavin Moore on 63), Ciaran McMullan. Two subs used.
Ref: Mr Wesley Campbell, Augher.