Banbridge Rangers progressed to the semi-final of the Premier Cup after seeing off Newry City AFC 1-0 at Cheney Park on Saturday in a tense quarter-final.
Both teams had first half penalties but only the Gers converted theirs through Chris Chambers and this proved to be enough to see them into the last four.
Banbridge Rangers welcomed back William Frazer, Jonny O’Neill, Stuart Mallen and Jerry Philip back into the squad after being unavailable for the Irish Cup exit the previous week.
There was also a debut for keeper Christopher Davison who signed for Rangers on Thursday from Newry City AFC after having limited opportunities with the border club.
The opening 20 minutes was a combative midfield battle with Kyle Sergeant pairing up with Ryan Gregg in central defence as Chris Chambers and Jonny O’Neill were moved into holding roles in the middle of the park to upset Newry’s rythym.
The first clear chance fell to Newry’s Mark Lowry after 20 minutes when he cut in at the back post to meet a Keith Johnston cross on the volley but his effort fizzed wide of Davison’s post.
Newry continued to probe and they soon created another chance when Lowry laid the ball back into the path of Niall Crilly. His first time cross was met by Mark Patton whose headed effort again did not trouble the Rangers keeper.
At the other end, Peter Murphy produced a brilliant reflex save when Jerry Philip’s shot took a nasty deflection with Murphy reacting quickly to tip the ball over his bar.
On the half hour mark, Josh Durnin picked out the run of City’s Keith Johnston who raced clear of the Banbridge defence and with only the advancing Davison to beat, Johnston didn’t get enough power behind his lobbed shot which Davison gratefully collected.
Banbridge made the most of this let off minutes later when winger Stuart Mallen went past Niall Crilly on the counter attack only to be taken down by a clumsy challenge inside the penalty area.
Maximum retribution was taken by Chris Chambers who sent Murphy the wrong way with a confident penalty to put Banbridge Rangers 1-0 up.
Newry City reacted well and could have equalised on 36 minutes when McMahon slipped a pass through to Patton who bore down on goal taking the ball around Davison who forced him wide enough to the narrow angle and his shot hit the side netting.
An even better chance was soon to follow, McMahon again the instigator laying his pass into the path of Lowry. Once inside the box, Lowry turned back inside William Frazer who pulled the winger back with referee Alan Hayes awarding Newry a penalty kick.
Paul Donegan stepped up with confidence but saw his shot crash off the base of the post with Davison diving in the opposite direction and a second touch by Donegan saw the Gers awarded a free-kick out.
At half time Rangers shuffled their pack with Chambers dropping back into defence with Porter moving onto the right wing as Cousins moved centrally to add legs to the midfield.
Possession in second half belonged to Newry as the home team looked to frustrate a side who moved the ball very well in the first half and look for the counter attack.
Newry had their best chance midway through the half when McMahon sent a weighted ball into the path of Johnston but Davison was quick off his line to punch away bravely at the edge of the box.
Graeme Edgar picked up the ball forty yards out with Davison stranded but his shot was headed out from under the bar by a quick thinking Ryan Gregg.
The final 15 minutes of the game saw a series of half chances for Newry but they simply could not get that extra yard of space as Rangers defended resolutely.
Newry were restricted to long range efforts in the final 15 minutes which were all denied by their former colleague Chris Davison who was out to prove a point with a clean sheet.
As it turned out, the big keeper denied his former colleagues with a string of saves from Durnin twice, Barr twice and Johnston as the time expired.
In the final minute, Jonny Porter went close with an audacious chip from 30 yards when he spotted Murphy off his line but when the whistle went, it was Rangers who were the team still in the competition.
The semi-final will take place in December away to Camlough Rovers in another tough tie for Rangers but one that is highly anticipated.
The Banbridge Rangers back four were particularly effective in the second period and deserve a lot of credit in front of an impressive debut from Davison but man of the match was Jonny O’Neill who showed tremendous desire to win every ball and lead by example.
BANBRIDGE RANGERS: Chris Davison, Jonny Porter, Kyle Sergeant, Ryan Gregg, William Frazer, Colin Cousins, Chris Chambers, Jeff Brady (Adam Beattie ‘56), Jonny O’Neill, Stuart Mallen (Kenny Gracey 81), Jerry Philip (Tom Grover 87).
Referee: Alan Hayes