ON a day darkened by the sad news of the death of Club Honorary Vice-President James Carson Vage, a dedicated and true Banbridge Town legend, his beloved Town side travelled to Portadown to take on Annagh United in a second round Bob Radcliffe Cup Tie.
Indeed it was on Boxing Day 2011 that Jimmy and a tremendous crowd of Banbridge Town supporters watched as The Crystal Park men captured The Bob Radcliffe Cup, their last trophy success, defeating neighbours Rathfriland Rangers 2-1 in the Final played at Lakeview Park, Loughgall.
This season has seen a sporatic start for Town and despite great encouragement and guidance from caretaker manager Ryan Watson from the sideline they struggled to get a hold on the game for most of a disappointing first half.
It took 22 minutes before Town really threatened with the homesters dominating possession despite a prolific workrate from the visitors. Barry Tumilty saw a well struck effort saved while Conor Downey felt aggrieved he did not get a penalty soon after when he was sent sprawling in the box. Annagh’s tall commanding back-four were soaking up all that Town threw at them although as the half reached its latter stages there was a hint of better things to come with Paul Walsh orchestrating some fine openings.
It’s an old cliche to say football is a game of two halves - perhaps night and day would be a better similie to describe the first and second halves of this game.
First onto the pitch for the restart, Ryan Watson’s side had clearly got the bit between their teeth and as the half got underway Banbridge were relentless.
They pressurised all over the park with great work from Chris McGrath and Barry Tumilty ably supported by attacking full backs Mattie McCartan and James Wilson.
Paul Walsh came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock after 49 minutes with a fierce shot into the side netting.
Annagh came back and exerted some pressure of their own but determined Town held firm. James Wilson threaded a great ball through to Stevie McArdle who despite being crowded out by three Annagh defenders forced a corner.
From this corner central defender Murphy’s attempted clearance fell to McArdle who gratefully (if somewhat fortuitously) slotted past the home ‘keeper.
Darren McGrath replaced Paul Walsh(tight hamstring) after 70 minutes. However Town continued to have the upper hand and Conor Downey had a number of chances to secure the tie but the striker’s ill-luck this season continued.
He was replaced after 85 minutes by Stephen O’Neill but despite some five minutes of injury time Town ran out comfortable winners to secure a quarter-final draw away to Dungannon Swifts Reserves on Saturday October 6 (kick-off 2.30pm)
Jimmy Vage would have been delighted!
This, however will prove a tough obstacle to overcome as the Swifts knocked five past a good Tandragee Rovers side in their Second Round Tie.
Town gave a great second half performance on Saturday which we hope will continue this Saturday (29th Sept.) when Queen’s University visit Crystal Park in a league encounter (kick-off 3pm).
Points must become a priority for Town from now on!
TEAM: Kieran Maguire, Mattie McCartan, Stuart Thompson, Martin Buchanan, James Wilson, Chris Kingsberry, Chris McGrath, Barry Tumilty, Paul Walsh, Stevie McArdle, Conor Downey. Subs: Darren McGrath (for Walsh 70 mins.), Stephen O’Neill (for Downey 85mins.)