Dungannon Swifts boss Rodney McAree pleased with effort levels of his players

Dungannon's Dave Montgomery  with Linfield's Andrew Waterworth
Dungannon's Dave Montgomery with Linfield's Andrew Waterworth

Despite beginning his second stint as Dungannon Swifts boss with a defeat Rodney McAree was encouraged by his side’s battling performance against league leaders Linfield at Stangmore Park.

An early second half goal by Ivan Sproule, who capitalised on a defensive mistake, was all that separated the teams at the final whistle.

Swifts proved more than a match for their illustrious opponents throughout, giving McAree who last week replaced the departed Darren Murphy, real optimism for the future.

“Of course we are disappointed to lose, you don’t want to lose any game,” said the new man.

“However we performed quite well and restricted Linfield as best we could. We set out a game plan and it seemed to go well for us.

“They had limited opportunities and had we cut out that one mistake we probably would have got a point.

“But we had many positives today and got a response from players right across the pitch. The two centre halves, Jamie Glackin and Dougie Wilson, I thought the four of them were exceptional.

“It’s all about hard work, desire and commitment and if we show what we did today against Linfield against everyone else we’ll be alright.”

On paper this should have been a stroll in the park for the Blues but it was anything but.

For long periods the visitors struggled against a well-organised Swifts with Guy Bates and Andy Waterworth getting little change out of a determined home defence.

In the first half Waterworth fizzed inches wide, while Bates headed over with the goal at his mercy after defender Mark Haughey had crashed a header against the crossbar.

Haughey’s centre-back partner Jimmy Callacher also had a header cleared off the line.

In response Paul McElroy’s curling 25-yarder was clawed away by Ross Glendinning before Dougie Wilson fired over from distance.

The Swifts rearguard allowed Sproule to nip in, round Andy Coleman and steer the ball into an open net.

Sproule’s goal in the end proved decisive and no-one was happier about that than his old international team-mate.

“I said to my forwards at half-time we need to start anticipating a mistake because that or a set-play was going to decide the game.

“Credit to Sproule he took the advice on board and delivered a match-winning goal,” said Blues boss Healy.

“It’s a great win, I knew it would be difficult. This was always going to be a huge game, a tough game.

“Coming down here with a new manager in Rodney McAree, it was never going to be easy.

“I knew it would be difficult and they didn’t disappoint me. To be fair our lads stood up to everything that was threw at them and ground out a big result.”