A LARGE crowd turned out to Crystal Park last Thursday evening for a local derby Cup Final between Banbridge Rangers and Juniors and were treated to an action packed game that was eventually decided on penalties.
It was the Juniors who got off to a flying start taking the lead within the first two minutes of the game with a speculative effort from the flank looping over the head of Rangers keeper Craig Robinson.
The early goal gave Banbridge Juniors the confidence to drive forward and created the better openings after that point until eventually scoring a second goal on 20 minutes after a shot into the top corner was unable to be diverted for a corner by Robinson. As the half wore on Banbridge Rangers gradually came into the game a bit more and started to put the Juniors under pressure.
On the stroke of half time Banbridge Rangers were awarded a free kick at the corner of the box with left back Dean McIlveena scoring a sublime free kick which bent in over the wall and hit the inside of the post before rattling the net to bring the score back to 2-1. In the second half Banbridge Rangers dominated almost all of the play with strikers Simon McAllister and Matthew Holloway eager to level the scores. Fifteen minutes into the second half Holloway scored a deserved goal as a reward for his tremendous effort when he converted from ten yards after the impressive Jonny Bryson beat his marker before delivering a pinpoint cross.
With the scores all tied and going into the last ten minutes it was tense for the players with the boys in blue trying to move the ball about at pace knowing that the Rangers back defence of Adair, Burns, Hilliand and McIlveena were missing nothing at the back.
The best chance of the closing minutes fell to lightning fast striker Holloway who latched onto a threaded ball from midfield playmaker Joel Reid but his well struck effort went agonizingly wide off the post.
The match moved into extra time and eventually finished all level with Rangers unable to make their dominance pay off with a winning goal. The penalty shootout started off with the Juniors racing into a 2-0 lead before being pegged back to 2-2 after four penalties a piece.
Both teams scored their fifth penalties meaning that sudden death penalties would decide the winner. Juniors scored their penalty and Rangers Alex Cochrane saw his effort come off the inside of the post unfortunately. This was a great game for neutrals and was great to see such a large support for an under 13 game.