Banbridge Juniors Under 16’s clashed with Valley Rangers in the semi final of the Mid Ulster Shield last Saturday as they looked to reach another final.
The Juniors began the game with some early defending to do, as Valley came flying out from kick off.
However, the strong defensive line led by captain Jordan Walker, easily saw off the early pressure.
The Juniors settled into the game quickly, with Jack Hamilton and Ryan Sloan strongly contesting the midfield as they began to take control of the game.
Sam McAllister provided a fantastic outlet as he led the line, bullying the Valley defenders as he looked for an opening.
Valley were quick on the break, and with nine minutes on the clock they broke from the back, finding their winger on the right who drove into the box and finished well to give the opposition the lead.
The Juniors were not rattled at all, and got straight back into the game a minute later when the Valley defence were unable to deal with Sam McAllister who shrugged off his man before squaring the ball for Jake Dennison to tap in the equaliser.
The Juniors had a confident swagger about them as they took control of the game with a second goal on 11 mintues when a long ball from keeper Conor Ward was plucked out of the air by Sam McAllister as he out muscled his marker yet again, drove at the keeper and finished into the corner to give the Juniors the lead.
With 19 minutes on the clock, Sam McAllister picked up the ball down the Juniors left before firing an inch perfect cross for Jake Dennison at the back post who hung in the air before nodding past the keeper, giving the Juniors a two goal cushion.
The second half began with Valley searching for a lifeline in the game, which they got when they were awarded a penalty on four minutes.
Keeper Conor Ward got a strong hand to the ball, however, was unable to keep out what was a strong penalty kick.
Valley won a free kick on 15 minutes which was launched in and was only partially cleared by the Juniors, before it fell fortuitously for the Valley striker who converted to draw the scores level.
With Valley now asking all the questions, they were awarded a second penalty.
The Valley player stepped up, and again keeper Conor Ward was nlucky not to keep the spot kick out as he got a strong hand on the ball again. Valley were now leading 4-3 with 15 minutes to play.
The Juniors cleared their heads, and settled back into the game.
Jake Laffin was introduced as he tried to work his magic to find another leveller for the locals.
The Juniors pushed hard, and should have been level only for a string of fine saves by the Valley keeper to deny both Jake Dennison and Sam McAllsiter on more than one occasion.
Time was against them, and with a minute to play Ryan Jones surged out of defence with the ball before playing Sam McAllister in on goal who finished coolly to draw level and force extra time.
The Juniors had Valley rattled, and with extra time underway they pushed Valley hard asking all the questions in the opening exchanges.
Seven minutes in, Sam McAllister again bullied his marker before he burst through and beat the keeper at the near post to give the Juniors a vital lead, and completing his hat-trick.
Despite the best efforts of Valley to try and find a foot in the game, the Juniors composed and confident football easily saw out the game to send them into the final.
This week’s man of the match was hat-trick hero Sam McAllister, for not only his goals but for his work rate and masterclass forward display which gave the Valley defence a nightmare of an afternoon.