Barr’s brace caps a final flourish as Town cruise past Portaferry Rovers

Neil Barr was the hero for Town with two goals on Saturday. INBL1543-279PB
Neil Barr was the hero for Town with two goals on Saturday. INBL1543-279PB

Banbridge Town faced Amateur League opposition for the second week running on Saturday but made light work of Portaferry Rovers.

Town ended up handing out a 4-1 thrashing in the Intermediate Cup game, that despite going 1-0 behind.

Goals from Ryan Moffatt, Conor Downey and a brace from Neil Barr, all in the final 15 minutes, ensured a much more comfortable victory than the previous week’s penalty scrape against Crumlin United.

Manager Ryan Watson took the opportunity to give some players a starting place and it was a much changed Banbridge side which ran out with Stephen Croft, Martin Buchanan, Stephen Jones, Neil Barr and Jordan Hayes all coming into the line up.

Town had a strong bench with Kevin Anderson, Ryan Gourley, Ryan Moffatt, Conor Downey and Damien McParland in reserve.

The recent inclement weather resulted in a lot of postponed games but once again the Crystal Park pitch was in good condition and the match was never in doubt.

Town started the better of the two sides on their home turf, the midfield pairing of Chris McGrath and Stephen Jones combining well, passing the ball about and displaying excellent vision and urgency in their play.

Banbridge were pressing Portaferry right back in the opening exchanges, however the quality in their final ball was disappointing given their build up play.

Neil Barr worked tirelessly up front as he searched for an opening, and it seemed it was only a matter of time before Town would score. Some excellent play down the right was Town’s best outlet, with right back James Wilson combining very well with new dad Chris Kingsberry who was looking lively.

It was the visitors who came closest with the first real chance of the match as winger Andrew McAvenri was released down the Portaferry left however his low shot was well saved by keeper Croft.

Town’s first real opportunity, a free kick on the edge of the area which was met by a great header from captain Stephen Greene but was called back for offside.

Banbridge were winning the midfield battle, as centre-halves Buchanan and Greene pressed higher up the pitch preventing Rovers from getting out of their own half.

Banbridge were playing some great football; Adam Pedlow took a quick throw-in to Neil Barr, who played a lovely one-two with Chris McGrath to set himself through on goal only for his shot to be dragged wide.

After last week’s marathon Irish Cup tie, the home support were hoping they wouldn’t have to go through that drama again. The second half started much like the first for Banbridge, a lot of pressure with no real end product.

Stuart Thompson and Adam Pedlow combined well down the left and Pedlow fired an inviting cross into the box only for Barr to be inches away from connecting for a tap in; Kingsberry supplied a cross of similar quality from the right which again should have been converted.

Conor Downey replaced Jordan Hayes on 60 minutes as Town chased the opener. It would be fair to say that Portaferry were better going forward than in in defence and were giving the Town defence some problems when they did manage to break forward.

On 65 minutes, they caught Town off guard, with winger McAverni making no mistake this time, getting behind the defence and shooting low into the left corner to put Rovers into the lead.

Town manager Ryan Watson reacted immediately, introducing Ryan Moffatt and Ryan Gourley for Jones and Pedlow as they pushed for a way back into the game. The substitutions saw much more urgency and speed in Town’s passing which Rovers couldn’t cope with.

It seemed only a matter of time before the equaliser arrived with Town beginning to pile on the pressure. With only 15 minutes remaining, the breakthrough that Town thoroughly deserved came with left back Thompson firing a ball over for Downey to head back across goal allowing Moffatt to tap in.

Town’s superior fitness and skill was beginning to tell and boosted by the goal, Banbridge were full of confidence which was shown in their play.

Three minutes later, the home side found themselves in front when Moffatt turned provider as he passed to Downey on the edge of the area. His drop of the shoulder allowed him to roll his man and fire first time across goal into the far top corner, much to the delight of the home support.

Any hope of a Portaferry comeback was all but gone when Town added a third five minutes from the end when Neil Barr picked up a pass from Kingsberry 30 yards from goal and he was allowed to turn and drive towards goal before firing low and hard into the bottom right from the edge of the area.

The game was sealed with a minute to go when Barr bagged his second. This time a well worked Town short corner set up Moffatt to cross the ball right onto the head of the waiting striker who headed in from six yards to wrap up the tie.

Town will now go into the hat for the third round draw which will be played on Saturday 23rd January.

BANBRIDGE TOWN: Croft, Thompson, Greene, Buchanan, Wilson, Pedlow (Moffatt 65), McGrath, Jones (Gourley 65), Kingsberry, Hayes (Downey 60), Barr.

Unused Subs: Anderson, McParland.