Monday, 11 November 2013

Dungannon Swifts 1 v 2 Glentoran

Saturday 9th November 2013
Northern Irish Premiership
Stangmore Park, Dungannon
Admission: £10.00
Programme: £2.00
Attendance: 788
Match Rating: 4

Having been a relatively frequent groundhopper to Northern Ireland back in the days of Ryanair fares of £10.00 return or less, today would be my first visit in three years, this time via Flybe. A last minute decision - when leaving Belfast City Airport - steered me away from a visit to Bangor and instead I headed west on a hour and a half coach journey into County Tyrone.

Stangmore Park is situated a mile and a half south east of Dungannon town centre. Somewhat frustratingly, the long distance coach from Belfast to Dungannon drives past the ground but does not stop. Set slightly below the adjoining main road, the ground is extremely neat, tidy and easy on the eye, perfectly adequate for Irish League football with modest attendances but it does have the feel of a Isthmian League Premier Division ground. One enters along one of the lengths, and an all-seater stand straddles the half way line, with a few steps of terracing either side. There is cover for a couple of terrace steps along the whole of the opposite length, although a low roof gives quite a corridor, bordering on claustrophobic feeling. Behind one goal is a few steps of terracing with the central area having cover, whilst behind the remaining goal is a covered stand with three rows of seating. The programme was very good, 40 pages all in colour, with plenty of interesting articles and information about both teams.

Dungannon have been in poor form recently, without a win in their last six games and picking up just two points, although one occasion those was last time out at Championship Crusaders and were only denied a win when Crusaders scored deep into added on time. Their last hone game resulted in a painful 0-5 defeat to local rivals Portadown. They were in ninth place in the 12 team division. Glentoran, by contrast, have been in very good recent form, unbeaten in five, picking up 13 points, a run which included a 2-1 home win against Dungannon. Glentoran were in fourth place in the division.

On a very chilly and overcast afternoon, and with the visiting fans outnumbering the home support, providing an excellent atmosphere and plenty of colour to proceedings, the game was even and competitive in the opening stages but it was the visitors - who had always shown a little bit more quality and composure - who took the lead on the half hour. Jordan Stewart, a youngster who has been earning rave reviews this season with some eye-catching performances, beat several defenders in quick succession down the left wing with some wonderful tricks before another defender put an end to the fun and games with a crude foul. The free kick floated in should have been comfortably caught by the Dungannon keeper but instead he dropped it to the feet of Marcus Kane, who hooked the ball home. Within a minute though, Dungannon were awarded a penalty for a clumsy sliding foul on Jamie Douglas as he sprinted into the box. Former Glentoran striker Darren Boyce smashed the ball high into the net to level the scores. After that burst of two goals in as many minutes, the game reverted time how it was before - competitive, increasingly feisty, enjoyable to watch, but with few chances for either side to score again.

Into the second half, and Glentoran seemed to step up a gear, but their task was made harder on 52 minutes when their defender Jimmy Callacher got into difficulties when he tried to control a long ball, Jamie Douglas stole possession and as he strode towards goal, Callacher brought him down from behind to earn a second yellow card and an early bath. Dermot McCaffrey struck the crossbar with the resulting crossbar. Dungannon had an even better opportunity to take the lead three minutes later when Boyce went through for a one on one against the keeper after a defender made a hash of cutting out a through ball and despite having all the time in the world to place his shot, Boyce snatched at it and the ball went wide of the left hand post. That miss was to prove costly as Glentoran then came back into the game after a shaky spell following the sending off. They went on to score a winner they probably deserved on 82 minutes. A corner was initially blocked and when it was eventually played to the far post, and Jason Hill volleyed the ball firmly into the net to cue wild celebrations from the Glentoran players and fans. They comfortably held out apart from a reasonable chance deep into injury time when the ball was headed just over by Boyce, and Glentoran rose to third place in the table - a good achievement following considerable upheaval over the summer, whilst Dungannon look a little more nervously over their shoulder, with just four points separating them from the relegation zone. Today's game was pretty much what I have come to expect from football in Northern Ireland - whilst the quality is often quite poor with frequent mistakes made, the football is generally extremely competitive, full of commitment and with a good atmosphere which makes for entertaining viewing - usually a stark contrast from the football played south of the border.

Goals and match report via the BBC website,

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