With both the Sky Blues first team and reserve games postponed at the weekend the underage stars at the Magherafelt club took centre stage.
Magherafelt Sky Blues 4
Oxford United 3
The Sky Blues U12s put in one of their worst performances of the season but still came away with a vital league victory.
The Blues who are pushing for promotion to the Premier section of the National League always knew that this game against Oxford United Stars was going to be a close affair.
Oxford carved out chance after chance early on. They were first to the ball and the Sky Blues defence wilted under the intense pressure. Oxford deservedly opened the scoring after four minutes.
The Oxford right winger crossed unchallenged presenting a gilt-edged chance to a striker who made no mistake. The second came 5 minutes later as an Oxford striker had a clear run through on goal.
Shea McGuckin was more than equal to the striker’s shot and made a great save, but the Sky Blues defence was motionless allowing Oxford a simple tap in.
Twenty minutes in when another ball from the Oxford midfield split the home team defence down the middle, and an Oxford striker made no mistake when through one-one.
A drastic change was required and the Sky Blues brought some needed physical presence onto the pitch in the form of Jarlath McWilliams and Ryan Lennox.
Immediately following the substitutions Aaron Donnelly played Oisin Mullan through down the right flank. Oisin outpaced the Oxford defence and cooly slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
The goal gave the Blues a much needed shot of energy and the game slowly began to turn.
On the stroke of half-time Ryan Lennox won the ball on the right side, he played the ball into the midfield for Jamie Gribben to sweep a first time through ball to Aaron Donnelly whose hard hit shot squirmed under the body of the Oxford keeper.
The Sky Blues improvement continued into the second half and they continued to create chances particularly from set pieces.
The equaliser came ten minutes into the second half when Mullan broke down the right wing and crossed. Jamie Gribben mishit his shot straight to Aaron Donnelly at the back post who had the simplest of chances to score.
The Blues were now in the ascendency and pushed for the winner. It came with a scoop of good fortune when a ball was laid back to Caolan Crozier from his own throw in, and his speculative cross sailed high and over the keeper’s head into the far corner of the net.
It should be said that Oxford produced the better football throughout the game and for the whole sixty minutes caused the Sky Blues all sorts of problems.
A special word must go to man-of-the-match, Shea McGuckin, who made a string of saves throughout the game and one in particular stood out when the score was at three each keeping the Blues in the game.
Magherafelt Sky Blues 6
Roe Valley 0
With five players returning this week, Sky Blues started brightly and within 5 minutes had taken the lead through Michael McKay as he headed home a Matthew Walshe free kick.
Soon after Gary Scott played a ball through for Lewis Francis to get his first of the game and from another Scott cross, McKay controlled and hammered the ball in for his second.
With the Sky Blues confidence at a high Lewis Francis got his 5th goal in 4 games when he toe poked a Matthew Walshe goal kick past the Roe Valley keeper. Then Lee McMenemy got onto the end of a Matthew McMenemy pass and drove the ball into the far corner of the net with his weaker left foot.
Roe Valley started the second half a lot better but the Blues defence stood firm and scrambled the ball away on a few occasions.
Mid-way through the second half man-of-the-match Dan Higgins, who was playing in a more disciplined roll in front of the defence, collected a short corner from Daniel Barefoot and calmly guided the ball into the top corner of the net for the Sky Blues Sixth.
Higgins then had a free kick rattle the cross-bar with the keeper beat. This capped a great performance by the Blues captain as they finished the game with their first win.