BANBRIDGE Town made their first ever visit to the Black Mountain ground of Belfast side Sports & Leisure Swifts on Saturday last - a site that gives a magnificent view all over the City.
On a very heavy surface this was always going to be a big test for a Town side whose firm belief is to play fast ground football which has seen them come on in leaps and bounds over the last six weeks.
With new manager Brian Adair - who took up the reins today - an interested spectator the Players were eager to impress and assure themselves of a place in Brian’s ambitious future plans. They opened on the offensive and dominated the early possession with central defender Danny Johnson going close with a header from an inviting Chris Kingsberry cross. Indeed the big number five gave a master class in aerial duels all afternoon.
Stephen O’Neill went close soon after with a shot on the turn after another good build up. However despite all their dominance Town were lacking a cutting edge and this allowed the homesters to stay in the game.
Against the run of play they went ahead after 25 minutes. Paul Walsh cleared a corner with a great header to the byline but Swifts midfielder McCabe picked up the clearance and cut inside before rifling a tremendous effort past Michael McAllister.
Town were stunned but this side is made of stern stuff and they continued to take the game to the Belfast Men. Their perseverance paid off after 35 minutes when a foul on Conor Downey resulted in the award of a spot kick which Mattie McCartan despatched to the corner of the net to level matters at 1 - 1. It was a confident Mattie who stepped up to score his fourth penalty on the trot and make him Town’s penalty king without a doubt.
The second half opened in the same vein and Danny Johnson rattled the crossbar in the 47th minute with a header following a corner, one he probably should have scored.
Barry Tumilty and man-of-the-match Chris Kingsberry ruled midfield and Town took a deserved lead after 62 minutes when the latter jinked his way through the home rearguard and taking a return pass volleyed a shot well out of the home ‘keepers reach to put Town 2-1 ahead.
Conor Downey should have extended this lead three minutes later when he collected a rebound from the keeper but shot wide when it looked easier to score.
Johnny Porter replaced Stephen O’Neill in an effort to add more physical strength up front and Darren McGrath came in for Conor Downey to further freshen things. The former forced a great save from the home ‘keeper on 72 minutes.
Town’s final substitution saw the tenacious Chris McGrath make a welcome return from injury to replace Barry Tumilty for the final ten minutes. However on 82 minutes Town were rocked back on their heels when Swifts grabbed an unlikely equaliser! Danny Johnson’s outstretched leg caught McCabe as he careered through on goal and the Referee had no hesitation in awarding a spot kick to the homesters which Neil Corr slotted past McAllister to make it 2-2.
It was all Town in the latter stages but try as they did they could not make the vital breakthrough and in the end had to settle for a share of the points.
However, on the bright side it extended their recent unbeaten run and when Brian Adair and his coaching team get to work there certainly is optimism for the future.
For keeper Michael McAllister last Saturday’s appearance was his last for Town for the forseeable future as he is leaving to take up new employment in London. Everyone involved with Banbridge Town will wish Michael every success in his new job and to thank him for his great service to the Club. He will remain a signed player and maybe will still play a few games for us in the future.
Next Saturday Town travel to Annagh United in a league fixture (kick-off 2pm). On Saturday December 1 Town return to Crystal Park when Chimney Corner will be visitors in another League Fixture (Kick-Off 2.00 p.m.)
TEAM: Michael McAllister, Stuart Thompson, Simon Robb, Stephen Greene, Danny Johnson, Barry Tumilty, Stephen O’Neill, Mattie McCartan, Conor Downey, Chris Kingsberry, Paul Walsh. Subs: Johnny Porter (for O’Neill 65mins), Chris McGrath (for Tumilty 80mins), Darren McGrath (for Downey 69mins), Martin Buchanan, Stephen Jones.