Jeanfield Swifts 2-2 Blackburn United
East of Scotland League, Conference C
Riverside Stadium. Perth
Jeanfield needed a last gasp penalty to grab a share of the points in their last game of 2018 at the Riverside. Robbie Holden had given Swifts an early lead, but the hosts had to play three-quarters of the game with 10 men as goals from Craig Young and David Murphy either side of half-time put United in front. United looked all set to head home with all three points before Conor McLaren's spot kick deep into injury time squared the match.
Swifts came flying out of the traps, looking good in the opening moments, and took the lead in just the 5th minute - Holden picking up a loose ball slipping it home to give the hosts the lead. They were good value for it in the early stages, and could have added to another, Allan Leith going close from a corner kick.
Swifts luck began to change after fifteen minutes though, Keith Dewar going off injured and substitute Gary Fergus coming on to replace him. Fergus' involvement was only a brief one however, the midfielder shown a straight red within ten minutes of coming on, referee Steven Traynor appearing to indicate a stamp on his opponent. Worse was to come for Jeanfield just a minute later.
A United corner was only half cleared and Lewis Mackie slid in to block the long range shot and, while lying on the deck, the ball appeared to deflect off his body onto his hand. Traynor had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, and rubbed salt into the wound by booking Mackie for arguing his case. Young's spot kick was low to the keeper's left, and despite going the right way, Mitchell couldn't keep it out and the visitors were level.
The drama threw Swifts out of their stride and the rest of the first half was a little scrappy, with neither side really creating any real clear cut chances before the break.
The second 45 started in the same way as the first, with Swifts on the attach, and Holden nearly repeated the feat of grabbing an early goal but his shot went narrowly wide. Although it wasn't a dirty game, it had it's moments and neither side were shying away from the physical side of things.
Despite being a man down, Swifts were clearly not in the mood to settle for a draw and were giving it a good go. They made another change just after the hour, Richard Donovan replacing goalscorer Holden. Within a couple of minutes though, United were in front, Murphy getting on the end of a corner kick and placing his header into the top corner with Mitchell rooted to the spot.
United looked comfortable with the extra man, and now they had something to hold onto, it looked a tough ask for Swifts to get anything from the game. Mollison came on for Mackie with fifteen to go, in a final roll of the dice for the home side. Swifts were doing all the pressing at this stage but it was leaving them vulnerable at the back. Blackburn had two or three really good chances on the counter attack and Young almost killed the game off with a superb strike from distance that struck the top of the post.
Just as it looked like United were going to see the game out, Swifts summoned one last effort and forced a corner four minutes into injury time. There was plenty of pushing and shoving as the ball was played in, but with the penalty area packed it's hard to know exactly what referee Traynor saw. He blew in any case and, predictably, all hell broke lose with fingers being pointed and bodies having to be pulled apart. When the dust settled, McLaren held his nerve to equalise from the spot with the last kick of the game.
The arguments and accusations continued after the final whistle, and judging by the sound of doors being slammed in the dressing room area, probably carried on for a fair wee while afterwards. Traynor had managed to upset both sides over the ninety minutes, and in truth both penalties were probably on the soft side.
Man of the Match: Connor McLaren kept his cool to stick away a pressure penalty, but his all round general play was also excellent. Especially in the second half when Swifts were up against, he was always available and always trying to drive his side forward.
So Swifts head into the New Year in a three-way tie for top spot in Conference C, with only goal difference keeping them behind Linlithgow and ahead of Broxburn. Blackburn remain in sixth spot, although they have played three games more that all the sides round about them. Jeanfield now have a short break before heading to Inverkeithing for the Swifts derby in two weeks time, while United have a difficult home match against leaders Broxburn.
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