League leaders Lurgan Town Swifts took on a strengthened Scarva Rangers Reserves on Saturday afternoon at the Arena.
The young Swifts team came into the game on the back of 2 convincing wins against top of the table teams. However, this game turned out to be a tough encounter as it became more of a physical battle than pretty football at times. Lurgan took the lead when Ryan Blacoe played a lovely ball over the top for Callum Watkins to outpace the defence and score with great composure. Then an error from the Swifts allowed Scarva to equalise. Scott Gordon was showing quality in defence when he called nuts on his opponent before following through with it then pinged a long diagonal pass that just failed to put Callum through on goal. Lewis McKinley then hit the crossbar from a free kick. Tim Millen was having another cracking game and setup Callum to get the Swifts second goal. Jack Evans was growing into the game and watched his long range shot hit the post. Scarva could feel hard done by when their striker watched his shot hit the crossbar and it looked like it bounced over the goal line but the ref waved play on. Alex Woods was having a good half but was walking a fine line with being on a yellow card. Jack O’Neill was in commanding form at the back. H-T 2-1
The game was evenly balanced as Scarva scored an equaliser in the second half however the Swifts felt aggrieved as they should’ve been awarded a free kick for a foul on Morgan Smyth. Despite the setback Callum Watkins scored his hat trick goal when receiving a defence splitting pass from Jack Evans. That goal was Callum’s 9th in 3 games. Credit to Scarva they fought back for a third time to draw level. The Swifts then changed formation by moving the influential Adam Leathem to right back and going with a back four. Half time sub Luke Glenn was causing Scarva midfield all sorts of problems with his quick feet and direct play. Then with 25 minutes left Niall McBride replaced the impressive Scott Gordon which meant Ryan Blacoe moving to left back and Niall playing left wing. Niall had a goal incorrectly disallowed for off side. Lewis hit a couple of free kicks on target but the keeper dealt with both. There were no goals for 15 minutes then the Swifts were forced to make a third substitution when Jack Evans was struggling with injuries. With Simon Wilson pulling up injured before kick off manager Phil McKinley named himself on the bench with no intentions of coming on but had to replace Jack for the final minutes. The substitution was the game changer (only joking) as Lurgan finished with a flourish by scoring 2 goals. The Swifts fourth goal was assisted by Luke Glenn and clinically finished by Niall McBride from the right wing position. Then Lewis McKinley rattled the crossbar again with a right foot shot. The win was sealed when Lewis McKinley delightfully setup Niall again to score with another super finish. F-T 5-3
It was a great battling performance from the Swifts team against an experienced Scarva team. Adam Leathem and Jack Evans played well in midfield. Niall and Callum were clinical in front of goal however Jack O’Neill was worthy of the player of the match selection with his best performance this season.