O’Neill’s on song again as Town perform the great escape

For pulsating finishes and late drama Crystal Park is definitely the place to be this season.

With six minutes remaining and defeat on the cards, Banbridge Town pulled this game out of the proverbial fire.

Play was fast and frantic from both sides in the early stages with Town’s first attack on goal being a long distance effort from Johnny Kernaghan which visiting ‘keeper Harbinson held comfortably.

Corner’s Finlay saw yellow soon after for a crunching tackle on Steven O’Neill. This was the first of five yellow cards which the visitors were to pick up.

Adam Pedlow was inches away following a Paul Walsh corner and indeed good pressure from Steven O’Neill forced ‘keeper Harbinson to concede another corner after 14 minutes which was headed clear by the impressive Sean McCashin.

A dangerous Chimney Corner cross was spilled by Stephen Cairnduff but an alert Town defender came to his ‘keepers rescue and cleared on 20 minutes. However seconds later the Antrim men were 1-0 ahead when McCullough slipped the ball under the advancing Cairnduff after a defence splitting move had left the Town’s rearguard in disarray.

The home side were quickly on the offensive and a sweeping move involving Kernaghan, McCartan and Pedlow resulted in the latter shooting just past an upright after 28 minutes. Corner’s Steen turned inside the box but was thwarted by Cairnduff who got down to save smartly four minutes later.

Four minutes before the interval Damian McParland flashed a tremendous effort across goal which was begging for a touch that unfortunately for Town didn’t come. Just on the half-time blow Kernaghan sent Walsh scampering down the left but the latter’s fierce volley went into the side netting with the ‘keeper in difficulties.

The home side were finding it difficult to penetrate a strong Chimney Corner defence despite all their pressure but got a break on 62 minutes when ‘Corner were reduced to 10 men after Dorrian received a second yellow for a foul on Walsh.

Minutes later it was 1-1 when Johnny Kernaghan volleyed to the corner off the net with a great strike after a Damian McParland goalbound effort was headed into his path by ‘Corner defender McCashin in his attempts to clear.

To their credit the visitors did not go into defensive mode and poured forward whenever possible in an attempt to win the game and McCullough was close on 70 minutes after a good move in Town’s box. Banbridge’s man-of-the-match Stephen Jones forced a full length save from Harbinson on 72 minutes.

However the 10 man visitors stunned Town in the 84th minute when McCullough took advantage of a rare Stephen Greene slip to race in and blast past Cairnduff for his second goal and the lead for ‘Corner.

Within two minutes substitute Conor Downey supplied a brilliant left wing cross and Steven O’Neill bent low to steer his header into the corner past Harbinson to level matters.

The Town the laid seige to the visitors goal and Downey was unlucky to see his effort strike an upright on 88 minutes. The game was two minutes into injury time when will-of-the-wisp Johnny Kernaghan was fouled out on the right wing. He stepped up himself to direct the resultant free onto the head of Steven O’Neill who flicked it over the helpless Harbinson and into the net.

Banbridge Town: Cairnduff, Waddell, McParland, Greene, Buchanan, Jones, Walsh, McCartan, O’Neill, Kernaghan, Pedlow. Subs: Ferguson, Boyle (McCartan 80), Downey (Walsh 75), Watson.