With the match-ball sponsored by local Banbridge business Wrays Cleaners, AFC were hoping for a fresh, clean start to 2014.
First up was an away trip to Laurelvale on a very heavy, wet pitch. It was an outing that ended in disappointment though, with a 5-2 defeat and a red card.
AFC started very well and put together some very good passages of play, getting into Vale’s final third with some penetrating passing. Aaron Monaghan making an excellent run was played through with only the keeper to beat but tamely shot straight at the home keeper. Vale then got hold of the game and started creating a few chances of their own.
AFC found themselves 1-0 down on 15 minutes, following some indecision in the backline. 15 minutes later, it was 2-0. From an AFC goal-kick Bush in the Laurelvale midfield rose unchallenged and his header split the defence, sending the striker through to beat Phil Goan in nets.
On 38minutes big Paddy Burns, playing up front for AFC, showed great composure with some fine footwork to beat the Vale defence and rounded the keeper to slot home. 2-1 and AFC were back in the game.
All they had to do was keep it tight to see out the half to get to the break still in with a shout. However, again the visitors were punished when the home team broke down the right flank and a deflected shot looped up and over goalkeeper Goan’s head, making it 3-1 at half-time.
Despite the half time team talk, AFC started the second half poorly, giving away sloppy possession as the heavy pitch started cutting up. The score was soon 4-1 to the home side as a through ball to the Vale forward was finished well past Goan. That goal led to Martin Burns being yellow carded for dissent as he and his team-mates felt the striker had been offside. Burns was then sent off with a second yellow card following a late tackle 5 minutes later.
Although down to 10 men and conceding again, AFC played like they had nothing to lose. They got themselves on the score-sheet again as Paddy Burns broke down the right, held off the defender and slotted the ball past the keeper from a very tight angle. That was too little, too late, however and the final score was 5-2 to Laurelvale.