Celtic crush Town hopes

editorial image

AFTER their great comeback against Wakehurst on the previous Saturday Town travelled to an in form Lurgan Celtic with high hopes.

They introduced James Wilson to full back with Stephen Jones moving alongside Captain Stuart Thompson in the centre of defence, taking the place of suspended Daniel Johnson.

It was Celtic who controlled the early exchanges forcing Town deep in their own half thanks mainly to the efforts of the homesters duo Niall Lavery and Raymond Fitzpatrick.

Fighting to gain a foothold in the game Banbridge were dealt a blow when left back Simon Robb was forced to retire with an ankle injury after only seven minutes. Darren McGrath was his replacement with the versatile Paul Walsh reverting to number three.

Despite relentless pressing from Barry Tumilty and Chris McGrath in the middle of the park, Town strikers Downey and Porter found themselves quite isolated at times as a well organised Celtic defence kept them at bay.

As Town fought their way into the game - most of their creativity coming down the left side - it was not until the 15th minute that they tested home ‘keeper Fox.

A Paul Walsh free kick found Johnny Porter who did well to cushion the ball before directing it to the feet of the lively Darren McGrath - the latter homed in on goal only to be muscled off the ball by Celtic defender Toland.

The home side deservedly went ahead after 26 minutes through Fitzpatrick who outwitted the Town rearguard before slotting past a stranded Kieran Maguire.

However Town’s fighting spirit cannot be faulted and they came close to equalising on a few occasions before the interval - Indeed Celtic have ‘keeper Fox to thank for keeping them in front with a series of stunning saves.

Conor Downey refused to give up on a lost cause ball and forced a half clearance from an under pressure home defender which Darren McGrath picked up and fired over a great cross which Johnny Porter just failed to volley to the net.

Another good chance was spurned soon after when Stevie McArdle was denied by an upright after a terrific strike from the right hand side of the box. Celtic were fortunate to lead at the interval and it was an optimistic Town who took to the field for the second half.

However for some reason best known to themselves they lost their momentum and played second fiddle to Celtic throughout a disappointing second half.

Despite the efforts of the hard working Tumilty and Chris McGrath Town couldn’t retain possession. Stephen O’Neill replaced Johnny Porter in an effort to freshen things up but to no avail.

It was 2 - 0 to Celtic after 63 minutes when a well struck Niall Lavery free kick flew past an unsighted Maguire and nestled in the net - Town’s keeper should have done better on this occasion.

Unlike the previous Saturday the visitors never looked like recovering. It became 3-0 in the 86th minute when Daniel Ryan’s great run and cross found the head of Fitzpatrick and the latter had a simple task in heading his side’s final goal.

A very disappointing performance from Banbridge despite good efforts from Barry Tumilty, Chris and Darren McGrath and Paul Walsh, who showed some touches of class. A big improvement plus a much needed three points is required this Saturday when Portstewart will be visitors to Crystal Park (kick-off 3pm).

TEAM: Kieran Maguire, James Wilson, Simon Robb, Stuart Thompson, Stephen Jones, Barry Tumilty, Stevie McArdle, Chris McGrath, Conor Downey, Johnny Porter, Paul Walsh. Subs: Darren McGrath(for Robb 7 mins.), Stephen O’Neill(for Porter 50mins.), Martin Buchanan, Graeme Edgar, Adam McBurney.

Stephen Cairnduff, who featured in goals for Town in earlier games, has been transferred to Amateur League side Comber Rec. However the imminent return of former Town stopper Michael McAllister will more than compensate for this loss.