NI INTERMEDIATE LEAGUE
DUNGIVEN CELTIC 0
GOALS from Joe Breslin and Conor Carlin earned Strabane and Sion Swifts United (SSSU) a well deserved victory over Dungiven Celtic at Melvin on Saturday.
The result never seemed in doubt as SSSU always looked focused and intent on avenging their heartbreaking cup defeat to the same opponents just last month.
Dungiven were forced to play this fixture without the services of former X-factor star Eoghan Quiqq who has Pantomime commitments.
It was a fast paced encounter, played at a tempo dictated by SSSU throughout as Dungiven endeavoured to match the pace and hunger of the home side.
Strabane showed clear signs of intent early on with good chances from Tiernan McMullan, Breslin and Carlin and they did not have too long to wait until the breakthrough came on 17 minutes.
The pacy Carlin made a great run up the field before sending in a well timed cross for Breslin to blast to the back of the net from eight yards.
This was something of a wake-up call for Dungiven and they upped their tempo accordingly but despite going forward with greater purpose and urgency they could not infiltrate the SSSU defence to any great effect.
They eventually found a few chinks in the SSSU armour and had a spell of opportunities around the half hour mark.
Goalkeeper Dean Arnold was on top form to pull off a couple of close range saves in quick succession. The first was a fine reflex save from a Mehal Anderson shot before the goalkeeper gathered safely while under pressure from Gavin McLaughlin.
The sides then swapped chances for the remainder of the half but both defensive units came out on top on each occasion.
The best of these stoppages came when Darren McDermott made a great diving save to thwart a Carlin shot after the striker was played in by a Kevin Gallagher clearance at the opposite end.
United came flying out of the blocks for the second half and they capitalised on Dungiven’s sluggishness when Carlin had the ball in the net after just two minutes of play.
Substitute Sean Connolly made good progress up the right to set up McMullan. The playmaker was floored in the tackle but Carlin was well positioned to pick up the loose ball and connected well to rattle the net with a rasping shot from close range.
Dungiven had a timely chance to cut the deficit soon after when they were granted a penalty for an apparent obstruction in the box by Connolly. Stephen O’Kane stepped up to take and drilled it in low only for it to smash off the bottom of the post and out to safety.
This did little to lift the spirits of the travelling side while, in stark contrast, Connolly was able to breathe a sigh of relief after almost undoing his earlier good work.
Breslin could have extended his side’s lead midway through the half as he troubled the visiting defence with efforts that were narrowly off target.
Dungiven tried to freshen things up with a double substitution with 15 minutes to go but SSSU had their tails up and it was the homesters who enjoyed the better of the chances in the closing stages as Breslin and Carlin kept the pressure on right to the end.
The final chance fell to Dungiven’s O’Kane but his shot blasted over, ensuring that Arnold maintained a clean sheet.