Banbridge Town AFC have had a tough start to this season but they finally got a win on Saturday by overcoming Rathfriland Reserves 1-0 in the Mid-Ulster Shield.
Stephen McCavitt’s goal was enough to secure victory and after the game, manager Chris Beattie praised his side’s efforts after defeats in recent weeks.
“With a very young side, we have caome up against quality opposition week in week out,” he said.
“There are no easy games and it has been a very steep learning curve for the lads.
“But we have been so impressed with the attitude and commitment from the lads and the atmosphere in the squad is brilliant.
“The coaches have been working hard with the players and we can see the improvement in performances in each game.
“We maybe haven’t got the rub of the green on occasions and certainly there have been decisions that have went against us too, but it seems to have galvanised us and we are all fighting for the same cause.”
Saturday’s match started with AFC coming out of the blocks at blistering pace. A physical Rathfriland side seemed to be late with most challenges but that was because AFC were moving the ball so well and the hosts just could not get close enough.
With the wet and windy day and a heavy pitch the quality of football from both teams was to be admired. Rathfriland created a few good chances but were restricted to long range efforts in the opening exchanges.
AFC had a few regulars not available with Adam Dennison and Christopher Burns getting call-ups for the first team. However, young striker Stephen McCavitt got on the score-sheet with 20 minutes on the clock.
A lovely ball played through by the impressive Jordan Hayes went straight to McCavitt’s feet. He controlled it, instantly rounded the defender and with a faint one way then going the other slotted the ball coolly past the Rathfriland keeper.
McCavitt has been in fine form and you always think he will score. He gets plenty of good chances and his confidence is growing all the time. He is maturing into a great striker.
AFC carried on the half with swift flowing football and created more chances but failed to make them count. The visitors were awarded four corners one after the other and were piling on the pressure but a very resilient Rathfriland kept them at bay.
The second half was a different affair. Town had no idea just how much the wind was affecting the play until then. They seemed to struggle to get the ball out of their half and Rathfriland definitely had the upper hand but with their backs to the wall, the young AFC boys became men.
From back to front, every player in an AFC jersey played their heart out, digging in and working for each other. With the wind behind them, Rathfriland mounted wave after wave of attack but the AFC lads stood firm.
Manager Beattie deliberated over his MOTM award after the match: “I cannot praise the guys enough but we have a man of the match award each week and there were several guys who deserved it. However, after splitting hairs the ever reliable Brian Johnston edged it. He like others has been exceptional and Saturday was no different.”
This weekend, Town AFC are at home to Newry City Reserves in the league (kick-off 2.15pm).
TOWN: Stephen Croft, Brian Johnston, Dylan Martin, Darren Downey, Michael Mallon, Jordan Hayes, Stuart Jordan, Ryan Williamson, Aaron Heaney, Stephen McCavitt, Andrew Houston.
Subs: Aaron Monaghan 75 mins Kalam Farrell 65 mins Declan Loy.