Fresh from their third victory on the trot at Ballymoney United on Easter Monday, Gary Boyle scoring the only goal of the match, Banbridge Town welcomed Tobermore United to Crystal Park for the first time in a number of seasons.
The Co. Derry Club are renowned for fielding the legendary George Best in an Irish Cup tie in their halycon days but thankfully had no one of that calibre to face Town in this occasion.
It was the visitors who instigated the first raid on goal but ex-Coleraine striker Trevor Parkhill was stopped in his tracks by powerhouse defender Stephen Greene. Tobermore were showing a lot of determination and a low cross from McLaughlin was intercepted by Nathan Baird before it could cause maximum damage. Banbridge now began to play an attractive brand of ground football with McParland and Buchanan instrumental in Town’s engine room and intricate movements between Teggart and Kernoghan a joy to watch.
On 10 minutes, a Mark Teggart pass was met on the volley by Johnny Kernoghan who fired straight at goalkeeper Brown. Town were beginning to control proceedings with MOTM Mark Teggart showing a real appetite for the game.
The Tobermore keeper raced from his goal-line to beat Johnny Kernoghan in a race for possession and on 25 minutes, a powerful Stephen Greene header went periliously close to putting the home side in front. Gary Boyle saw a long range effort easily saved by Brown as Banbridge’s old failing in the final quarter began to surface. Mark Teggart was proving dangerous and a mazy run down the right left a couple of defenders in his wake although his finish did not match his approach work.
Conor Downey looked set to put Town ahead after 36 minutes but his effort struck the keeper’s leg and bounced clear.
The breakthrough came two minutes from the interval when a great left wing cross from overlapping Nathan Baird found Conor Downey perfectly positioned at the far post and the bang in -form striker planted his effort wide of Brown to send Banbridge into a 1-0 lead.
They continued to push forward in the second half and Boyle steered his header wide on 48 minutes from a Kernoghan cross. Brown came to his side’s rescue after 53 minutes with a good save from Teggart after he had dispossed a defender and raced through.
Town Boss Ryan Watson then made one of two significant substitutions when he introduced fit again leading goalscorer Steven O’Neill for Gary Boyle after 56 minutes. For the visitors, the game was to change within 60 seconds. They had a 57th minute goal from Clarke ruled out for offside and one minute later found themselves 2-0 down when super-sub. O’Neill touched a deceiving Downey centre past Brown.
The fight was knocked out of the visitors and Town really took over. The impressive O’Neill got his second when he collected another fine pass from Conor Downey and strode into the box before stroking past a static Brown.
He was proving a real thorn in Tobermore’s rearguard and should have scored again after 71 minutes but took his eye off the ball in front of an open goal after Downey had unselfishly laid the ball into his path.
Ryan Watson threw another striker into the fray when his brother Neil came on and similar to Steven O’Neill, made an immediate impact. On 83 minutes, James Wilson raided down the wing and fired over an inch perfect cross which Watson headed sweetly into the roof of the net.
One minute later, it was 5-0 to rampant Town and it was fitting that Steven O’Neill should complete his hat-trick with a wicked right foot drive past Brown.
It was the perfect hat-trick, a header, right foot and left foot shot. Tobermore’s nightmare wasn’t over and in injury time Neil Watson made it six after good work from Mark Teggart.
It was a fourth successive win for Town and amazingly five goals scored by two substitutes in the last 35 minutes.
Town would like to thank last week’s sponsors, Heatwaves (Proprietor Johnny Kerr) who provided match sponsorship and Walsh Newsagents who provided ball sponsorship.
TOWN: Cairnduff, Wilson, Baird, Greene, Waddle, Buchanan, Teggart, McParland, Boyle, Downey, Kernoghan.
Subs: Ferguson (Baird 56), O’Neill (Boyle 56), Watson (Downey 75), Grey, Orr.