The Swifts travelled to Kilkeel without last week’s match winner Lee Price and Ross Hayes who were both called up to the first team. With the poor weather conditions the teams had to play on a heavy pitch which deteriorated as the match went on.
In the early exchanges there was little between both sides with Paul King and John McMenamin holding firm at the centre of the Swifts defence, while at the other end Graeme McMullan and Aaron McCaffrey worked tirelessly to cause problems for the Ballyvea defence.
However, mid-way through the first half Ballynahinch took control of the game and, as they pushed forward, started to create chances. The opening goal came following a period of intense pressure on the home side. When Allan Massey rifled the ball into the box, McCaffrey reacted quickest with a powerful diving header that left the keeper with no chance.
It was McCaffrey again who caused problems leading up to the second goal. Clean through, he took the ball round the home keeper who was caught outside his penalty area, only to be sent sprawling. From the resulting free kick Matt Manley stepped up to curl the ball into the top corner of the net from at least 35 yards.
The Swifts were keen to add to their lead and managed to do so spectacularly early in the second half. With Ballyvea again forced to defend in numbers inside their own box the ball broke to Gareth Bingham 25 yards out. Taking a touch with his left foot and shooting with his right, he swept the ball over the defence and the keeper into the top of the net.
As the second half progressed Ballynahinch continued to maintain pressure on the home side until an unusual situation developed. Ballyvea 1sts were playing on an adjacent pitch with an early kick off in the Bobby Dalzell Cup. When their match finished two first team players joined their 2nds to come on as substitutes. While no rules were broken, it caused a distraction for the away side and gave Ballyvea a foothold in the game.
With Ballyvea pushing forward they started to get a few chances of their own, and forced a couple of saves from McGreevy in the Ballynahinch goal, before finally finding the net. A deflected pass from the left finding an unmarked forward in the box who was able to glance the ball home. With twenty minutes left the momentum shifted to the home side and the Swifts were indebted to Stewart Wilcox for a goal line clearance to keep their two goal cushion intact.
However, the game was to take another turn with Ballynahinch stepping up their game. Massey and Bingham dropped deep in midfield and stopped the Ballyvea advance, while Manley, McMullan and McCaffrey pushed further forward to put the home side on the back foot again. Only a goal line clearance from McCaffrey’s shot and the keeper’s save from Griffith’s effort prevented a wider winning margin.
A special mention must go to veteran Ian Blackwood who came on as a substitute only to dislocate one finger and break another. Epitomising the away side’s spirit he played on without complaint and helped Ballynahinch to an excellent away victory.
This week the Swifts travel to Killough for a league encounter.