Armagh City 3 Sport and Leisure Swifts 0
Armagh City produced a power-packed performance to sweep away the challenge of Sport and Leisure Swifts at Holm Park on Saturday.
And, as a result, the local side have moved into joint second spot in the Belfast Telegraph Championship Two and closed the gap on leaders PSNI.
Despite the atrocious weather conditions, City were quickly into their stride against the west Belfast outfit and striker Steven Murray had three great scoring chances in the opening 15 minutes which all went narrowly wide.
Despite controlling the game Armagh found it difficult to break down the well organised Swifts’ defence and their superb ‘keeper Damien Nugent who showed his class when tipping a 30-yard thunderbolt from Ryan McGerrigan around an upright.
Just before the break City again almost took the lead but a superb last-ditch tackle from John Donnan smothered a close-range effort from midfielder Matthew Hynds.
Half-time: Armagh City 0 Sport and Leisure Swifts 0.
After the scoreless opening half, and now playing against a strong wind, everything pointed to a very tough challenge for City.
But, in the end, they ran out comfortable winners, scoring three goals and squandering numerous other chances.
Murray was denied early on by the brave Nugent who rushed out to take the ball off the striker’s foot but, on 54 minutes, he could do nothing to stop the local side opening their account.
Good work on the left by Gavin McParland and Murray set up the inrushing Matthew Hynds who blasted home a low 15-yard shot into the corner of the net.
The home team were now attacking at will and Dara Noonan was unluckly to see a powerful header flash over the opposition crossbar on the hour mark.
And, 10 minutes later, the pressure paid off when Paul Carvill created space on the left and passed to Eamon Kelly who, in turn, set up Murray who flashed home another low shot from 12 yards.
There was little response from Swifts although they did test City ‘keeper Sean Morgan with a rasping Paul McDonnell shot on 74 minutes but the big stopper confidently tipped the effort over his crossbar.
Murray then blasted over the top at the other end of the park following a cross from sub Kevin Keegan and Noonan missed another golden opportunity when his header from a corner flashed just wide.
With time running out City eventually secured their third score when Murray scuffed the ball into the Swifts’ net from close range after a goalmouth melee.
Then sub Gareth Grimley almost got in the act just before the final whistle when his goalbound lob was headed off the line by defender Stephen Quinn.
In the end a comfortable win for Armagh who will now concentrate on back-to-back cup games against Banbridge Town (Mid-Ulster Cup quarter-final, Tuesday, February 4, Holm Park, Armagh, kick-off 7.45pm), and this Saturday, February 8, (Irish Cup sixth round v Glentoran, Holm Park, Armagh, kick-off 3pm).
Armagh City: Sean Morgan, Dale Montgomery, Ryan McGerrigan, Ultan Lennon, Dara Noonan, Eamon Kelly, Matthew Hynds (Kevin Keegan on 75), Liam Cullen (y/c), Steven Murray (Gareth Grimley on 83), Gavin McParland, Paul Carvill (Shea McGerrigan on 74). Subs DNP: Luke Grimley, John Daly.
Sport and Leisure Swifts: Damien Nugent, James Lindsay, Jason Close, Gerard Morris (Darren Moore on 74), Pat McDonnell, Gavin Johnston, John Donnan, John Brady (Stephen Quinn on 54), Carolan Flanigan, Darren Gallagher, Thomas Diamond (Ryan Kelly on 45). Subs DNP: Tony Larkin, Declan McCaffrery.