Donegal Celtic took on Lisburn Distillery in a relegation six pointer on Saturday afternoon at a gloomy wet Suffolk Road.
Celtic had new manager Stephen Hatfield in the dugout for the first time and the stakes couldn’t be higher this was a most win game for both teams.
All the talk last week wasn’t about exiting the Intermediate Cup, it was all about this game, the biggest match in Distillery’s season so far.
As the game got underway the visiting support were in fine voice, it would be fair to say quietly confident of getting that much needed three points.
As the game got underway it was clear the players needed time to get used to the obvious heavy pitch because of the amount of rainfall in the past week.
Donegal Celtic had the first chance of the game when Thomas Conlan cut inside of the left wing to drive his shot goalwards but it was straight down the throat of debutant goalkeeper Gerard McErlean, a recent signing from Knockbreda and a former Donegal Celtic player, one out of four that was playing for Distillery.
Sean Paul Murray’s side were getting into their stride and it was they who had the next chance as another debutant Stephen Doyle chased down the DC defence, he won the ball before he chipped it over the advancing keeper Conor Magee only to see Ryan Dunlop head it away just when it looked set for the net.
As the match progressed it started to flow end to end as Donegal Celtic had two good chances to go ahead, first from a Niall Hastings corner the ball going to the back post were Paul Brown headed narrowly wide.
Joe Todd was then denied by McErlean as he beat a challenge from Darren Nixon before shooting straight at the keeper.
However, it was the visitors who took the lead as Stephen Doyle scored a real peach as he headed sweetly into the net from a pinpoint Mikey Withers cross, a real welcome back for the striker on his second debut for the club.
One then became two immediately afterwards when the superb Withers turned the ball into the bottom corner of the net giving Magee no chance of saving.
Two-Nil and in the driving seat this was a long time coming for the Distillery supporters but they nearly saw Donegal Celtic get back in it when Joe McStravick burst through the Whites defence before being denied by the reactions of McErlean.
On the stroke of the interval Celtic had another chance as Joe Todd won the ball of the impressive Taylor Evans before shooting powerfully wide from range.
Donegal Celtic had the first chance of the second half as Paul Brown took the ball around McErlean, his shot cannoning of Darren Nixon the ball crashing off the inside of the post and heading for safety - a real let off for Lisburn Distillery.
Whites head coach Murray made his first change bringing off Kevin Hughes and replacing him with yet another debutant, on loan Portadown player Jonathan Gibson.
Lisburn Distillery could have had the game signed, sealed and delivered inside sixty five minutes as Mikey Withers shot powerfully from the edge of the box only to see it superbly saved by Magee.
Distillery’s second change came on seventy minutes as Keiran O’Connor came on for his second Distillery debut, replacing Noel Halfpenny who was very impressive on his first Whites outing.
Donegal Celtic could have pulled a goal back with fifteen minutes to go as Anthony McKeown rounded McErlean before his shot was blocked on the line by Nixon.
Distillery’s third change came when Denver Taggart was replaced by Jimmy McIlhagga and shortly afterwards it was game over when Distillery were awarded a penalty when Stephen Doyle was chopped down by Ryan Dunlop after Keiran O’Connor played him in.
Up stepped Doyle and he coolly sent Magee the wrong way to put the Whites even further ahead.
Withers nearly had the Whites fourth when he smashed wide after neat play by Doyle the striker back heeling it back into his path his shot going just wide.
Donegal Celtic pulled a goal back with seven minutes left as Joe Todd was played in by Conlan before hitting a thunderous strike into the bottom corner giving McErlean no chance.
Fears of a late fight back by the hosts were quickly extinguished, however, as Distillery went Four-One ahead with the very last action of the game as O’Connor drilled the ball low into the net from the edge of the area to send the visitors into raptures and that was how it ended a massive three points for the Whites.
LDFC Team v Donegal Celtic: McErlean, Ringland, Evans, Nixon, Pearce, McDonnell, Taggart, Halfpenny, Doyle, Hughes, Withers.
Subs: Gibson (for Hughes), O’Connor (for Halfpenny), Roohi, McIlhagga (for Taggart), Grainger.