Fine performance but honours even for South

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Having won their first match of the premier league campaign a fortnight ago, South went into their match against Civil Service with confidence.

Of course, the two sides had previously met in the Kirk Cup group stage in September with the Belfast side coming out on top in a 4-1 victory.

But it was South who started the brighter of the two sides under the Friday night lights at Friends’ School.

The midfield duo of John Semple and Lee Marshall found themselves in acres of space in the middle of the pitch and orchestrated much of South’s good play in the first period.

Ward Phillips drilled a delightful diagonal cross on his reverse into the danger area which just evaded the stick of the on-rushing Paul Maguire. That man Maguire then had a glorious opportunity to put the hosts ahead on twenty minutes, but could only watch as his reverse stick effort from mid-circle glanced off the upright. 

With Service’s main asset being Chris Barnes’ drag flick, South had their tactics spot on and confined much of the visitors’ play to areas of the pitch that were never likely to pose a threat.

Pressure from the forward quartet of Gamble, Henry, Maguire and Brown all caused numerous problems to the Service back line during the opening 35 minute period whilst the back four, and Adam Marshall in particular, defended resolutely to keep Service at bay.

It was inevitable, however, that the visitors would win a short corner and their first arrived on the stroke of half time. This was competently dealt with by the South defensive quintet and the score remained 0-0 at the break.

Whatever message was delivered to the hosts at half time, by coach Ross Johnston, certainly paid dividends as the youthful South side exploded out of the blocks.

A surging run from Chris Henry down the right led to the winning of the home side’s first short corner of the evening. After the initial corner was defended illegally with a foot, the subsequent clever routine ended with South’s captain - Lee Marshall - putting the ball in the net. 

Good value for their lead, South continued to make inroads to try and increase their advantage. Mark Gray and Matthew Getty have forged a terrific understanding with each other in the early stages of this season and after some neat interplay, the former tee’d up Paul Maguire who deflected the ball home.

At 2-0, this was the wake up call Service needed and the Belfast side began to assert themselves more on the game as the half wore on. A flurry of short corners was awarded in quick succession but South’s ‘keeper, Mark Hutchinson, was on hand to avert any danger. Service did, however, reduce the deficit shortly after with a short corner routine switched right which agonisingly crept over the line. 

With little over ten minutes remaining, that man Chris Barnes grabbed a share of the spoils for the visitors with a trademark drag flick dispatched high into the net. 

South continued to cause Service problems and very nearly grabbed a late winner. A driven ball from Mark Gray somehow managed to pass everyone in the D little more than 5 yards out from the goal line and, following this, an exquisite through ball from John Semple sent Getty clear, but the covering Service defender dealt with it competently.

Whilst South will perhaps be disappointed to not come away with the three points, they can be happy with their all round performance.

The Lisburn team dominated large portions of the game against a formidable, established and experienced Premier League side. 

The boys will be looking to use this result as a springboard for further success in the coming weeks with Newry and Portadown the next visitors.