Bann off to flyer after seven goal Garvey thriller

Banbridge in action against Lisnagarvey in the Ulster League season opener. US1438-525cd  Picture: Cliff Donaldson
Banbridge in action against Lisnagarvey in the Ulster League season opener. US1438-525cd Picture: Cliff Donaldson

Comber Road provided the venue for the first GOC Estate Agents Ulster Premier League game of the year for Banbridge. 

The match was predicted to be a close and exciting game and it didn’t disappoint.

Last season, the league title was contested between these two teams, with Lisnagarvey coming out the eventual winners of the league. 

Saturday proved that Lisnagarvey have another tough fight on their hands this year.

Swallow sponsored Banbridge, started the match without the services of Eugene Magee, Owen Magee, Ross Beattie and Dane Ward whilst Lisnagarvey welcomed back Timmy Cockram and Daniel Buser after a spell of injury. 

The first half started off at a ferocious tempo with Banbridge showing their intent early on. 

Bruce McCandless winning the ball from a Garvey defender in the first few minutes and linking well with Neil Gilmore eventually finding Steven Dowds who slotted the ball home to make it 1-0 Banbridge. 

It wasn’t long after that, Lisnagarvey provided their retort, a shot from Sean Murray was saved by Lennox but the rebound was well finished with a volley from the Garvey forward.

The second goal for Banbridge came from a breakaway by Steven Dowds who pulled the balk back to the tenacious Neil Gilmore who calmly finished to make it 2-1. 

Dowds continued to be a threat to the Garvey defence and added his second with a powerful reverse from the top of the circle. Bann obviously rattled the hosts as they came on the attack with everything they had but the Banbridge defence stood resolute with Drew Carlisle leading the troops from the back.

Garvey eventually broke through with 10 minutes to go in the first half with a strong reverse finish from Steven Arbuthnot.

The half ended with Bann on the ascendency, Jonny McKee and Neil Gilmore proving to be a thorn in Garvey’s side producing some great skills.

The second half didn’t start as Banbridge would have wanted, the experienced Timmy Cockram scored with a reverse shot only 5 minutes into the half. 

The fight was on and both teams showed why this was as exciting a fixture as expected, Peter Brown battling hard in the middle of the pitch, Matthew Bell cleaning up in defense and Gareth Lennox a brick wall in goals. 

New recruits Jamie Wright and Neil Gilmore showed their class with some great link play, Jamie unlucky to finish a breakaway in the last 15 minutes. 

It was then Bruce McCandless who proved the difference in the teams, showing a tremendous work rate to end up in the circle from defence and after linking with Frasier Mills, he was professionally fouled before being able to finish the counter attack, a penalty stroke was the result. 

Steven Dowds stepped up to beat John Torney in goals to round off his hat-trick and make it 4-3 Banbridge. 

Garvey tried to come back in the last 10 but to no avail, Gareth Lennox again pulling off some great saves. 

The game finished with both teams leaving it all on the pitch, Banbridge coming out the victors. 

Bann will hope to continue their winning streak in the next Kirk Cup game being played in Havelock Park on Tuesday night at 7.45pm against Cookstown.