THE Alan Wilson Cup Final between Banbridge Rangers and Ballymacash Rangers was unfortunately abandoned in the 59th minute on Friday evening at Crystal Park due to a serious injury.
Rangers striker Gareth Fulton required medical attention on the pitch and with light fading the officials had no other option but to call time on the final which will now go to an automatic replay.
Manager Dan Thornton handed a start to left winger William Frazer who had managed to make two substitute appearances the previous week after a lengthy delay on a knee injury. The opening ten minutes of a Cup Final where mistakes are minimized and everyone wants a good touch quickly evaporated with Rangers starting to press Ballymacash and won a couple of corners.
On 15 minutes a clearance from a corner landed to Rangers midfielder Colin Cousins on the half volley from well over 30 yards and he let rip with a once in a lifetime strike into the far top corner swerving in and crashing off the stansion and round the back off the net to give Banbridge Rangers a lead and send their hometown supporters delirious.
Before the half hour mark Banbridge Rangers had doubled their lead when the Ballymacash keeper fumbled a Clydesdale shot and William Frazer was on hand to poke the ball over the line to give the Gers breathing space and start to take control of the Cup Final.
After the half time interval Ballymacash came out with a more attacking approach but in the 59th minute the game was brought to an abrupt halt when striker Gareth Fulton chased a Chambers ball into the corner and when he went to cross the covering defenders block connected with Fultons shin.
It was immediately apparent to the players on the field that it was a serious injury and an ambulance was phoned immediately after the incident. After a lengthy delay the first response car arrived and started to administer treatment to the Rangers player and it became evident that with an Ambulance still not at the scene it would be a considerable time before play could ever resume.
With the fading light an issue it left the referee Gerard Murray and the officials and clubs in attendance to agree to abandon the game with an automatic replay for both sides to get another chance at the Cup Final.
Banbridge Rangers FC would like to express their thanks to the patience and understanding of all of the supporters who had come to see the Cup Final and also to the officials for their approach to the difficult situation.
Rangers leading goalscorer this season Gareth Fulton suffered a double break off the shin and will now be out of action for the rest of the season.
Banbridge Rangers would also like to thank the footballing community for their support and messages of support over the weekend. All of the first team squad have been over to the hospital to see Gareth and it is hoped that he will be allowed to leave Criagavon Area Hospital during this week.
Midfielder Trevor Tate also suffered tissue damage to his leg and was placed in cast after a subsequent visit to hospital to have his injury checked out.
The two players will be big losses to the Rangers team who were in control of the final but will have to do it all again on Saturday 5th May at Crystal Park in the replay with kick off at 11.30am. Admission will be free off charge for all supporters at the replay.