PHOENIX Swifts may have claimed the Saturday Morning League’s Blue Riband Cup at a sun drenched Brandywell Showgrounds on Saturday Morning, but the pre-match favourites were made to fight all they way, the game having been decided in extra-time.
Brandywell Celtic put in an excellent shift having started the game the better of the two sides. In fact, Brandywell played the better football throughout the first half yet they entered the break on the wrong side of a 2-1 scoreline.
Phoenix Swifts broke the deadlock when Shane McCallion worked his way forward on the right flank and he produced a great cross into the penalty area and Paul Moore was in the great position to sweep the ball past Doherty in the Brandywell goal.
Celtic refused to be intimidated and while they pushed Phoenix back on occasions having caused them problems it was Phoenix who doubled their lead before the break. A deep cross was met at the back post by Brendan Elliott and his header before Doherty.
But Brandywell refused to adhere to the script and they got back in to the game when Liam McGuinness managed to turn his marker and he planted the ball in the bottom corner to put the minimum between the sides at the break.
The second half saw Phoenix Swifts change their tactics and they began to take control of the game. Indeed, they also restored their two goals lead when a Canning cross from the right was met on the full by McCallion and he headed the ball powerfully home for a 3-1 lead.
Brandywell Celtic bounced back again when following a spell of pressure Marty Doherty drilled a shot from the edge of the penalty area into the bottom corner giving McCrudden no chance and the game was now well poised at 3-2.
Brandywell pushed hard in an effort to restore equality and they equalised when McGuinness crossed from the left and Marty Doherty towered above his marker to send a powerful header past McCrudden to make it 3-3.
Brandywell were then reduced to 10 men when Sammy Robinson brought down Stevie Johnston and referee, Noel Crossan, produced a second yellow card followed by a red which saw Robinson depart for the dressing room.
The game then moved into extra time with Phoenix taking advantage of their numerical superiority as they pushed for a winner was proved to be something special.
Former Derry City and Distillery midfielder, Darren Coyle, picked the ball up 25 yards from goal and he sent a suberb shot into the top corner giving Doherty no chance to give Phoenix a vita 4-3 lead.
Seconds from the final whistle Brandywell had a great chance to force the game into the dreaded penalty shoot-out, when Manus Deery had a free header six yards from goal and although McCrudden was beaten, the crossbar came to the goalkeeper’s rescue and Phoenix held out to collect their only trophy of the season while Brandywell lost out in their second cup final of the 2011/12 season.