Banbridge Rangers were beaten by Champions Dollingstown 6-2 at Havelock Park last Wednesday evening in a crunch match for both teams.
Dollingstown have yet to be beaten in 90 minutes so far this season and wrapped up the Intermediate A title at the weekend butRangers were 2-0 ahead early on at Havelock.
Most spectators were reversing their car into a parking space when Jason Gourley headed in the opener after thirty seconds as the Gers took the game to Dollingstown from the start. A cross-field ball was headed out by the Dtown left back and the long throw was met by Gourley who diverted his header in for a surprise early lead.
From the restart, Dollingstown lost possession within ten seconds and this allowed Mark Wilton to unleash a bouncing shot against his brother David Wilton in the Dollingstown nets. The shot was parried after an awkward bounce and captain Colin Cousins was on hand to side foot into the net to double the advantage so early in the game.
The Rangers supporters must have been contemplating a repeat of the Irish Cup fixture away to Ardglass when the Rangers team took a 3-0 lead in two minutes 34 seconds against the Amateur League Premier team. A third goal of the game did arrive on fourteen minutes but it was Dollingstown midfielder Jordan Gibson who rose highest in the box to head in a free-kick.
The goal didn’t seem to rattle the home side, who played with more fluidity than their opponents but just after the half-hour mark Dollingstown drew level when full-back Adam Walker sent in another free kick and it curled past everyone in the box and ended up finding the side netting.
On 52 minutes, Banbridge Rangers missed a great chance to retake the lead when Wilton fed Gourley in on the keeper one-on-one. Gourley’s shot was saved but Dean Gordon was on hand to pick up the loose ball and dink to the back post where William Frazer miscued his header from two yards out.
With twenty minutes to go, Dollingstown took the lead for the first time in the game when a free-kick from Aaron Moffett was misread by Chambers and the ball fell fortuitously to Aaron Duke who took one touch before blasting high past Crawford.
Within a minute of the restart, the Gers could have found themselves level after Dean Gordon latched onto a through ball on the edge of the area before skinning last defender Moffett but David Wilton was off his line well and the resultant shot spun off the keepers heel and out for a corner.
As the game moved into the final ten minutes, Rangers found themselves with a series of corners and knew that they needed to convert to take anything from the game. A long in-swinger evaded everyone in the middle and Jason Gourley met the ball at the back post in what looked an odds on equaliser but somehow the ball was cleared off the line by a Dollingstown defender.
The away side counter attacked at pace and scored a fourth goal when Neil Clydesdale caught the ball on the half volley to dink over the onrushing Crawford and virtually end any chance of a Rangers reprieve.
With four minutes to go, Dollingstown increased their lead to three goals when a low cross from the right hand side was spilled by Crawford and Duke tapped in for his second goal of the game. In the third minute of stoppage time, former Rangers captain Clydesdale rubbed salt into the wounds when he took advantage of a failed clearance from Crawford and curled in after running the byline.
This was a valiant effort by Banbridge Rangers who failed to see out the game in the closing stages.
BANBRIDGE RANGERS: David Crawford, Jonny Porter, Ryan Gregg, Chris Chambers, Wayne Nelson, Colin Cousins (c), Mark Wilton, Stuart Thompson (Dean Mallen 90), William Frazer, Gareth Fulton (Dean Gordon 33), Jason Gourley.