Banbridge Town eked out a precious away point to take themselves off the bottom of the Premier Intermediate League on Saturday.
In the process, they denied their Mid Ulster colleagues Newry City AFC a third consecutive win in what will undoubtedly be a dog eat dog season for all 12 competing teams.
With striker Neil Clydesdale unavailable, Manager Stuart King decided upon a different formation, choosing to play the returning Conor Downey as a lone striker.
The fit again Matthew McCartan came into a five man midfield. King also gave Andrew Wilson a first competitive start, replacing the now unavailable Ryan Gourley while Stephen Cairnduff returned in goal, replacing Andrew Cullen.
Before the new set up could be tested, after only three minutes, Newry won a corner on Town’s right and Declan Carville rose at the near post only to head just over.
However, from the resultant goal kick, Stephen Cairnduff’s long punt, carried by the breeze, completely fooled the home defence and Connor Downey was able to turn a defender and lob Murphy in the home goal to give Town the lead.
Newry were stung into action and Peter McCabe gave James Wilson some difficult moments on Town’s right but despite these threats, Town’s midfield stifled the creativity out of the home team, who were forced to play backwards and sideways for long periods of time.
When Banbridge did get the opportunity to break, Andrew Wilson gave Newry’s Mark Hughes a very uncomfortable first half as his pace took him clear of the home defence on several occasions.
Eventually, Hughes was shown a yellow card, presumably for consistent infringement as all the play seemed to be on Town’s right hand side.
Banbridge Town did use their possession well and in the 18th minute Lavery’s free kick was saved then two minutes later a mazy run by James Wilson ended with the full-back shooting narrowly over the bar.
Town continued to work hard but in the 36th minute after James Wilson’s poor pass wasn’t cleared, Peter McCabe was brought down in the box and Newry’s Jimmy Walker slotted home the penalty.
Just after, Downey’s cross from the left was headed towards goal by Andrew Wilson but home skipper Chris McMahon was on hand to clear off the line and the score finished level at the break.
Immediately after the restart, the visitors were handed a numerical advantage when Newry’s Mark Hughes was shown a second yellow card for yet another trip on Andrew Wilson.
As so often happens, the ten men raised their game and Town were on the defensive for much of the second period.
Newry’s midfield of McMahon, Carville and the talented Walker had much of the possession but despite this, they created little from open play and relied on free-kicks and corners to create danger.
In the 70th minute, King replaced himself with Mark Teggart and Niall Lavery with Ashley Gregg. At the same time, Newry brought on Sean McMullen for Mark McCabe in a desperate effort to win the match.
Town created a good chance in the 83rd minute when Downey crossed only for the onrushing Teggart to fire his shot over the bar. Teggart had a second shot easily saved by Murphy a few minutes later.
Newry thought they had won the match late on when Carville created a chance in the six yard box, but Cairnduff saved well and the rebound was cleared.
Town’s supporters were left biting their nails for the five minutes of added time, but the team’s resilience was rewarded with an excellent away point.
Meanwhile, Nathan Wier scored twice as Banbridge Town’s U20 Development squad went to the top of the League with a fine 6-0 win against Armagh City.
TOWN: Cairnduff; James Wilson; Acheson; Thompson; Devlin; Andrew Wilson; McCartan; Lavery (Gregg 70); King (Teggart 70); Moffett; Downey
Subs unused: Cullen; Pedlow; Greene.