Champions elect Armagh City came to Crystal Park on Saturday last and showed title-winning form with a very impressive performance which culminated in a comfortable 4-1 victory over Banbridge Town on their relentless march to the title.
Town created quite a few chances of their own but once again failed to capitalise on them and the visitors deserved to take full points.
Starting without Steven O’Neill, Stephen Jones and Mattie McCartan plus long term absentees Adam Pedlow and Chris McGrath, this was always going to be a tough ask for Town.
Early on Michael Ferguson came to Town’s rescue when he headed clear from a dangerous left wing cross. City were attacking strongly down their left and keeper Stephen Cairnduff cut out a great cross from Eamon Kelly as his strikers waited to pounce.
Town did have a great opportunity to grab the lead when Mark Teggart found the unmarked Conor Downey in front of goal but the latter headed badly wide when he should have done better. It was to prove a costly miss as on 33 minutes Lennon was first to react to another inviting cross to head past Cairnduff to put Amagh into a lead which they were never going to lose.
Fighting Town did push forward and Johnny Kernoghan turned and shot just wide with a drive from 25 yards before a Neil Watson header was cleared off the line in a bout of home pressure. However, City began to turn the screw and Gavin McParland rolled an effort wide of the post after being played through by McGerrigan. Soon after, it was 2-0 when Murray turned on the proverbial sixpence to give Cairnduff no chance from 22 yards.
It could well have been worse for Town when just before the break Lennon lifted his shot over from five yards after racing onto a McParland free kick. Banbridge surprised the visitors with an electric start to the second half and Morgan had to be alert to save a Martin Buchanan header. Town were stringing together a few good moves and Mark Teggart combined well with Neil Watson before feeding sub Gary Boyle, whose shot was well saved.
Johnny Kernoghan should have reduced the arrears after 56 minutes on a one-to-one with Morgan although the keeper deserves credit. Four minutes later, that miss was to come back to haunt the Town when Armagh broke. The ball somehow rebounded to the lurking Shea McGerrigan and the ex Banbridge striker planted it into the corner to put City firmly in command.
It was 4-0 after 84 minutes when Murray raced in behind Glen Waddell after a long ball had drifted over the latter’s head to give the helpless Cairnduff little chance. Brave Town never gave up and pulled a goal back when a forceful run down the right by James Wilson saw Kernoghan crash past Morgan. They almost scored again just before the final whistle but it was all too little too late.
TOWN: Cairnduff, Waddell, Wilson, Greene, Buchanan, Ferguson (Grey 6), Teggart, McParland, Watson (Donnelly 74), Downey (Boyle 45), Kernoghan.