Intermediate A League favourites Tandragee Rovers used a get out of jail free card to snatch a last gasp win over Banbridge Rangers on Wednesday night.
They had to come from behind three times and score a last minute winner against a Rangers side who put in a valient but ultimately fruitless effort at Havelock Park.
There were some positives to take out of the performance for Rangers and the display sets the tone for the remainder of the season.
After a bright opening spell for both teams, the Gers were awarded a penalty on 14 minutes when a through ball from Jonny Porter saw Jason Gourley bundled over as he latched on to it. Commanding centre half Chris Chambers stepped up confidently and put his penalty in via the inside of the post.
The play was relatively even with Tandragee able to squeeze in an equaliser just after half an hour when Cecil Corbett found space to head towards goal unopposed off a Rooney cross from the left. Harker saved the initial header but Corbett was on hand to tap in from close range.
Five minutes later, Rangers regained the lead through debutant right midfielder Adam Beattie who signed recently from Donacloney.
Fellow winger Frazer had closed down Rovers keeper Clifford Marshall who spilled the ball before bundling Frazer to the ground. Rather than award a penalty, the play was allowed to proceed as Beattie came storming in and showed great composure to curl into the top corner beyond the covering defender on the line.
After the half time interval, the Gers stuck to their task of frustrating Tandragee but were dealt a huge blow on 61 minutes when Killian Kerr blew for a penalty in favour of Tandragee. Rovers Lee Wells converted low to the right to level up at 2-2.
Tandragee pressed and the Gers retreated for several minutes to regroup and hold off the onslaught of last season’s runners up, who showed great ball retention and interchanging which required the utmost concentration.
A swift counter attack then saw Coly Cousins pick up the ball in his own half and bypass defender Whiteside who tried twice to trip up the Gers Captain before scything him down 25 yards from goal and was subsequently cautioned.
From the resultant free kick, Chris Chambers looked destined for a powerful drive but showed every inch of his repertoire to skilfully curl up, over the wall and into the net for his second goal which also keeps up his tremendous goal scoring record for a defender.
With 20 minutes to go, Rovers were awarded a free-kick for handball in a central position. AJ Gallagher struck the free kick which took a deflection off the wall and spun into the corner.
Tandragee Rovers looked to turn the screw but couldnt find a way through with Banbridge Rangers having the two best opportunities on the break. Marshall saved a one on one with William Frazer followed by another attack down the right but Porter’s cross from a wide area evaded both of the unmarked players breaking into the box.
As the game looked like being blown up for a point a piece, Tandragee took a quick throw which was hooked into the channel and Jonny Black instinctively drove his shot into the near bottom corner to seal the three points for his team.
It was hard to take but was a learning curve against a team that announced this week that they will be applying for the IFA Championship. As results this week have shown, this will be a very competitive division and every point will be hard earned.
BANBRIDGE RANGERS: Andy Harker, Jonny Porter, Jonny O’Neill, Chris Chambers, Adam Beattie, Colin Cousins (c), Kenny Gracey, William Frazer, Andy Mallen (Jason Adamson 66) & Jason Gourley (Dean Gordon 78).
Subs: Dean Mallen, Jason Adamson, Stuart Thompson, Dean Gordon.