AFTER a recent run off poor results the last thing that Banbridge Rangers would have needed was a game against the league favourites but on Friday evening the squad put in their best performance of the season against Tandragee Rovers and were unfortunate not to come away with at least a point.
Andy Frazer took charge of his second game and appointed Colin Cousins as Captain after Neil Clydesdale moved onto to Dollingstown midweek.
In the opening thirty seconds Tandragee should have been one up when Mark Bicker controlled the ball eight yards out and only had the keeper to beat but a last ditch tackle from Simon Hodgett diverted the shot for a corner.
The early pressure was incessant from Rovers but Rangers put their bodies in front of everything and eventually started to get a foothold on proceedings.
Two good penalty shouts were turned down for Rangers before Cousins fired over the bar from the edge of the area in a game that was allowing both teams clear chances in front of goal.
Twenty five minutes in saw Greenaway put the ball in the net for Rovers but was offside but the opening goal then came two minutes later through Bicker who raced through on goal and curled into the far bottom corner.
Rangers went on the offesnsive until the half time interval but failed to break Rovers resolute defence. The Banbridge side had a point to prove to the crowd who had turned up on a bitterly cold evening and set about pressing Tandragee at every opportunity in the second half.
Rovers passing was wayward and Rangers capitalised with wave after wave of attack midway through the half but were almost caught on 64 minutes when Greenaway went through one on one but Belvins stood tall and denied a second goal.
Ryan Weir and Tony Graham showed the sort of tenacity and drive from wide areas that has been lacking recently with Weir torturing Tandragee with several mazy runs down the left hand side. Banbridge Rangers had a stonewall penalty turned down with twenty minutes to go when an outstretched elbow prevented a cross from reaching its target. Substitutes Robbie Baird and Matty McKnight were agonizingly close to diverting in driven crosses which were unclaimed by Daniel Rooney in Rovers nets.
With eight minutes of normal time remaining Tandragee were reduced to ten men after Jamie Rooney had lunged at Ryan Weir at the edge of the box and left stud marks up his thigh. The impressive Peter Dean went close with the resultant free kick but within ninety seconds of the restart a flick on allowed Paul Greenaway to bear down on goal again unchallenged and he extended Tandragees lead to 2-0 with just under five minutes to go.
On eighty seven minutes Colin Cousins was rewarded with his efforts in running the line when he grabbed a goal by lobbing the onrushing Tandragee keeper to set up a nail biting finish. Rangers put the ball into the danger area on several occasions to no avail in the dying minutes of the game but it was Tandragee who left with all three points.
This Saturday Banbridge Rangers will look to turn their effort and commitment into points when they travel to Fivemiletown and with three home games to follow it could be a catalyst for moving up the table. Thanks to Shoefair Sports who sponsored two match balls for Friday evenings game and for their continued support over the last few years.