It’s now four league games without a win for Banbridge Town as they fell to a 3-1 defeat to Newington at Seaview on Saturday.
The North Belfast side are still in the hunt for promotion and they soon assumed control of this clash. Midfield dynamo Conal Burns was pulling the strings and caused Town problems all afternoon.
James McConville was recalled to the Banbridge goals and responded with smart saves from Fitzsimmons and Burns in the seventh and eighth minutes respectively.
Newington held all the aces early on although Town were gradually working themselves into the game and created their first chance after 23 minutes. A Chris Coleman free into the box was met by Martin Buchanan whose initial shot was blocked and although an alert Stephen Greene followed up quickly, his effort was also blocked by the home keeper.
On the half-hour, Newington were awarded a free just outside Town’s area but Brennan fired over to the visitors’ relief. Play was even at this stage and a snap shot from Ally Wilson after 32 minutes was well saved.
Ryan Evans was doing a lot of probing down the right and from one of these forays, left two defenders in his wake but couldn’t get the final shot in.
However, after 37 minutes, Newington took the lead when centre forward Rafferty unleased a tremendous 30 yard drive which caught McConville off his line and nestled in the top corner.
Two minutes later Banbridge produced their best passage of football involving McCartan, Buchanan, Wilson and Teggart which resulted in the latter striking the post with a fine effort. The movement deserved a goal and after 43 minutes it seemed Town would get on level terms when they were awarded a penalty.
A Chris Coleman cross found Stephen Greene who was clattered in the box by centre half McMenamin. However, Ally Wilson’s spot-kick was straight down the middle and saved by the keeper. Town custodian James McConville thwarted Rafferty on the half-time whistle with a good stop from the big striker.
Banbridge began the second period on the offensive and another dangerous Ryan Evans cross found Mark Teggart whose effort was blocked. However, they were rocked back when Newington extended their lead after 62 minutes. Winger Fitzsimmons raced through and although McConville saved his point blank effort, midfielder Burns followed up to shoot past the helpless Town keeper.
To their credit, Town did not let their heads drop and two minutes later were right back in the game when Mark Teggart fired home off the inside of a post to give his side all to play for.
Ryan Watson then made a double substitution with Conor Downey and David Gray replacing wide men Ryan Evans and Ryan Gourley. Gray was soon in the thick of things and an excellent cross was well held by a relieved home keeper.
It was a ding dong battle and Town thought they had equalised after 85 minutes when Teggart fired into the net after good work from Mattie McCartan but Referee Dunlop ruled the goal out, alleging that the former had fouled Newington’s Pierce in their race for possession.
It was further heartbreak for Banbridge after 89 minutes when Burns found ex-Glenavon striker Joe Finlay who slotted past McConville to make it 3-1 for the home side, which was probably slightly unkind to a hard fighting Banbridge outfit who had given their all but had just come up short in the end.
Despite the defeat, there were some notable performances - none more so than Martin Buchanan who gave a solid performance throughout. On another positive note, it is great to see Chris McGrath winning his fitness battle. He is stepping up his fitness levels at present after his horrific pre-season injury and will hopefully soon be a very welcome addition to Ryan Watson’s panel.
Next Saturday (21st March) Banbridge Town travel to Dollingstown (kick-off 3pm).
The Dollybirds trounced Town at Crystal Park last December so Banbridge will be out to prove that they are a better side than they showed that day! It should be interesting!
TOWN: James McConville, Chris Coleman, James Wilson, Stephen Greene, Martin Buchanan, Stevie Jones, Ryan Evans, Mattie McCartan, Ally Evans, Mark Teggart, Ryan Gourley. Subs: Glen Waddell (Coleman 44), David Gray (Gourley 67), Conor Downey (Evans 67), Duncan Stoddard, Stephen Croft (GK).
Referee: Ross Dunlop, Carrickfergus.