Banbridge Rangers ...............6
BANBRIDGE Rangers celebrated a semi final victory over Hanover at Cheney Park on Saturday to reach the final of the Alan Wilson Cup where they will play Camlough Rovers for a third time in cup competitions this season.
The cup final will be the first one in a landmark game for the club but the victory came with a hefty price as influential defender Chris Chambers may be ruled out for the remainder of the season after damaging his ankle in a late tackle after only 15 minutes.
Hanover had made no secret of their game plan and set out from the first minute to ruffle the feathers of the Rangers players with late tackles and some untoward off the ball harassment.
The Portadown outfit were exposed by the vigilant referee who proceeded to hand out five yellow cards and one red inside the first half and Hanover could have seen more than one player take an early bath.
Each side had one good chance each early on with Gourley having a half volley saved in the second minute after a crafty hook from Loney sent the striker in on goal and Hanover saw a 20 yard shot shave the outside of the Rangers post after six minutes.
On 15 minutes Chris Chambers had controlled a through ball on his chest just inside his half and sent his volleyed clearance up the line only for his standing leg to be taken away on landing by a late challenge with Chambers in agony after twisting his ankle on landing. This meant Bradley Hughes had to come into the fray as an early substitute with Chambers heading to the dressing room and Jonny Porter slotting into centre half alongside captain Darren Clarke.
Rangers carried on playing the football despite numerous rough challenges and created a good chance for John McCahon after some nifty footwork from centre midfielder Trevor Tate down the left hand side. On twenty three minutes McCahon did manage to find the breakthrough with a well executed half volley after Gourley won a header in the box to set up the winger for his first goal for Banbridge Rangers this season.
On the half hour mark Jonny Porter was the subject of amelbow to the face and had to get treatment on his cut cheek with the referee giving the Hanover striker a yellow card. The referee then had to give the same player his marching orders only five minutes later when the striker kicked the ball at the crowd after gaining a throw in and was shown a second yellow card for unsportmanly conduct.
Banbridge Rangers had two good chances to extend the lead before the break with Scott Ward sending an effort over after a swift counter attack lead by McCahon before Jason Gourley also saw an effort go over when trying to lob the keeper.
Banbridge Rangers had a nightmare start to the second period and should have been drawn level with Hanover striking the bar after sixty seconds.
A minute later two blocks from Tate and Blevins forced a corner when the Hanover midfielder was unopposed with ball from four yards out after picking up a low cross but dwelled too long on the ball. Just after the fifty minute mark Banbridge Rangers managed to convert a second goal when Jason Gourley gratefully picked up a deflected back pass and rounded the Hanover keeper for his eighteenth goal of the season.
Gourley added another goal six minutes later after being played through by Scottie Ward who was back to his driving best in centre midfield along with Trevor Tate and Richard McMinn who tried relentlessly to keep the ball moving forward. The three goal cushion was reduced within two minutes of the restart when Hanover’s lively left back cut in from the overlap and fired home a potential incentive for the visitors. The Hanover effort was made redundant three minutes later when Ward again provided for Gourley who sealed his second hat trick in the last three weeks with a well driven low shot from ten yards out.
Hanover responded well and played some of their best football in the second half when down a man and could have had a second goal only to be denied by an excellent point blank save by Blevins as the game headed into the final twenty minutes. With fifteen to go Scott Ward got his name added to the score sheet with a driving run through the middle going past three defenders with ease and seeing his shot elude the goalkeeper who could only watch it head towards the corner.
Banbridge Rangers matched their 6-1 quarter final victory over Ballymacash when Bradley Hughes found himself thirty yards out and when Gourley laid off Hughes sent his long range effort high over the keeper to round of a superb all round performance from the Rangers contingent. The club would like to wish Christopher Chambers a speedy recovery from the injury sustained in Saturday’s game and would also like to thank White Label Dry Cleaners on the Castlewellan Road for their kind sponsorship of Saturday’s semi final.
The Wilson Cup final is scheduled to take place at Holm Park, home of Armagh City FC, on Friday evening 8th April against Camlough Rovers who are Rangers main contenders this season for every competition. Camlough had eliminated Rangers 3-2 at Cheney Park in the Marshall Cup before Colin Cousins exacted revenge with a last minute goal in the Intermediate Cup. The two sides still have to play each other home and away this season with Camlough still able to go clear at the top if they win their five games in hand at the top of Intermediate B.
Banbridge Rangers travel to Ballymacash this week hoping to regain top spot in the league with current leaders Richhill heading to Hanover in a promotion six pointer.