Banbridge Town recorded their first home league win since November with an impressive 2-1 victory over Dergview at Crystal Park on Saturday.
It has to be said they had been knocking on the door for some time and Lady Luck has deserted them on more than one occasion but against a side who had gave them a football lesson back in September with a 5-1 drubbing they showed just how much this squad has matured and improved over the season and were fully deserving of the three points.
Flu victim Neil Watson was missing but suspension-free Chris McGrath returned and the little battling midfielder adds another dimension to Town’s midfield and is often the unsung hero of the home side’s displays.
The first real chance of the game fell to Dergview’s astute number Mullen and he sent a dipping 25 yard effort just past Kieran Maguire’s far post after eight minutes. Conor Downey, playing in his more familiar front role, had a shot safely held by visiting ‘keeper Buchanan soon after.
Town were putting together some fine movements that belayed their lowly league position and a fine Downey/McGrath interchange resulted in the latter test Buchanan with a fierce 20 yard drive. Dergview’s McCaskie rose above the home defence to head narrowly over in a quick counter attack. After 17 m nutes Chris Kingsberry went on a jinking run through the visitor’s rearguard but Buchanan was more than a match for the Town’s skipper’s final effort.
However it was Dergview who took the lead two minutes later when Mullen smashed a 30 yard free kick through Town’s defensive wall and past a static Maguire. It was a bad goal for Town to give away and came as a direct result of lack of communication between defence and ‘keeper. Would Town’s heads go down now and result in another loss of vital points?
Thankfully the answer was an emphatic no and within five minutes they had equalised. Attacking right back Stu Thompson found himself deep in Dergview’s half and whipped in a delightful cross which Ryan Moffatt met at the far post and sent a great header well out of Buchanan’s reach and into the roof of the net.
It was no more than Town deserved and things got even better when straight from the restart Conor Downey picked the ball up in the visitors box, turned a defender and placed a neat finish into the corner past the diving ‘keeper to send Town into the lead. It was sheer joy for Town’s long suffering supporters but the question on everyone’s lips was “will they succumb to another late defeat?”
McMenamin gave them an anxious moment when he just failed to get his head to a dangerous cross as the ball whizzed past Town’s goal. However Chris McGrath, who was arguably man-of-the-match, had a 53rd minute volley deflected for a corner and Moffatt had another long range effort go wide following a cleared 62nd minute corner as Town pushed forward at every opportunity.
Three minutes later Buchanan reacted bravely to keep out a Downey piledriver with Kingsberry just failing to reach the rebound. At the other end Maguire kept out a McManus effort and in the 73rd minute Carlin fired into the side netting after good approach work from Mullen as Dergview showed they were up for the fight.
Chris McGrath thought he had put Town further ahead after 77 minutes but Buchanan’s knee got in the way of his goal-bound thunderbolt. Three minutes later Chris Kingsberry sent a tantalising shot across an empty goal but no-one was on hand to finish. Downey outstripped the visitor’s defence in the 85th minute after latching on to a defence-splitting pass but could only watch in agony as his final shot went the wrong side of the post.
Dergview substitute Arkinson was showing a lot of pace and his combination with Mullen in the 89th minute saw the latter shoot wide in the visitors last real chance of taking something from the game.
At the final whistle it was a welcome victory and three points for Town and replaces a lot of the gloom that had descended on the club in recent weeks.
Next Saturday, March 24 Town travel to Newry City - kick off 3pm - and on Saturday 31st March travel to Tobermore Utd - kick off 3pm. The next home fixture is on Easter Saturday (April 7th) when Limavady Utd will be visitors to Crystal Park - kick off 3pm.
Teams: Banbridge Town: Kieran Maguire, Stuart Thompson, Simon Robb, Stephen Greene, Daniel Johnston, Chris McGrath, Ryan Moffatt, Barry Tumilty, Stephen Jones, Chris Kingsberry, Conor Downey. Subs: James Wilson, Adam McBurney, Aaron Cobb, Scott Martin, Stephen McArdle.
Dergview: Alan Buchanan, Gareth Porter, John Carlin, Jonathan McCaskie, Liam McMenamin, Blaine Burns, Aaron Walsh, Adam Lecky, Warner Mullen, Nathan Cashel, Dwayne McManus. Subs: Aaron Arkinson (for Lecky 70mins.), Garth Gallagher, Stefan McCusker, Ashley Lowry, Dale Maxwell.
Referee: P. McGrath (Belfast)