Banbridge Town’s New Year got off to a disappointing start on Saturday when their eight match unbeaten run was ended by a 2-1 home defeat to second bottom Coagh Utd.
It was a defeat Town ill-deserved, having dominated possession and chances but two first half lapses turned over Conor Downey’s early opener and condemned the hosts to defeat.
With Stephen Greene suspended, Martin Buchanan came into Town’s back four, the only change to the line up which had been performing so well in that unbeaten run.
The recent bad weather has taken its toll on many fixtures in the last four weeks but once again the Crystal Park surface was in good condition.
Both teams started brightly but the first chance fell to Town’s Chris McGrath who picked up a quick throw in but his shot went wide.
Coagh were getting some joy down the left and a cross from one time X-Factor contestant Eoghan Quigg was headed over by Gillespie.
Town got the breakthrough just nine minutes in; Kevin Anderson played a ball over Coagh defence and Conor Downey beat the offiside trap to race through before blasting a shot past Hassan.
Town pressed forward looking for a second goal; Moffat played in Kingsberry and his backheel inside the Coagh area was flashed goalwards by Gourley but Hassan got down well to save at the far post.
On 20 minutes Town’s had another chance, this time from Kevin Anderson who picked up a Coagh clearance and unleashed a powerful shot from just outside the area which Hassan pushed out for a corner.
McGrath and Gourley were then both foiled by the keeper but then Coagh made them pay for missed opportunities.
After Gillespie won a free-kick outside the area, his own set-piece wasn’t held by Town’s keeper Tuda Murphy and the ball rebounded off his chest. Coagh’s Fintan Kelly was quickest to the loose ball and despite a last ditch attempted block by Waddell the ball was rifled into the roof of the home goal.
Town picked themselves up and went in search of another goal; Anderson picked up a Downey cross, but his powerful shot from outside the area was again beaten away by Hassan.
Coagh were still a danger and a cross by Gillespie was headed over by the unmarked Quigg. Town didn’t learn from this let off and on 40 minutes they were behind. Once again, Coagh found space on the left and Kelly’s pass to Quigg evaded right back James Wilson allowing the winger a clear run on Town’s goal. His curled shot gave Murphy no chance and was ultimately to prove the winner.
Stung by this set-back Town were straight back on the attack; a through ball by McGrath saw Downey beat right back Glasgow but as he cut back inside, he was brought down. Referee McGrath waved away Town’s penalty appeals and his last contribution to the half was to book the Town striker.
The second half started as the first ended with Town on the attack; Stuart Thompson had Town’s first shot but it was straight at the keeper.
Good work by Chris McGrath then won the ball in midfield and push forward, evading two tackles before finding Downey whose shot was saved.
It was all Town in the first 15 minutes of the half but they couldn’t breakdown the resolute Coagh defence. Ryan Watson made his first change on 60 minutes, bolstering the attack with Neil Barr replacing Kingsberry.
He provided an additional threat but despite Town’s urgency and effort, they couldn’t convert.
With 20 minutes left, Gourley displayed some brilliant skill which almost drew Town level. Picking up the ball in midfield he drove forward, beat three tackles and cut inside before unleashing a powerful shot which was just tipped over the bar.
Town then had another great chance to equalise. McGrath and Moffat combined in midield, the latter playing a crossfield pass from the right which found Downey on the left of the Coagh area. His return ball across the face of goal seemed certain to be knocked in by Barr but a Coagh defender got back to block and the ball went over the bar.
Barr had another effort, picking up a Pedlow pass on the right and driving towards goal but his shot was into the side netting.
That meant Coagh held on for a dogged three points as Town lost for the first time in just shy of three months.
BANBRIDGE TOWN: Murphy, Thompson, Buchanan, Waddell, Moffat (captain), Anderson (Pedlow 75), McGrath, Gourley (Jones 85), Kingsberry (Barr 60), Downey. Subs (unused) Croft, Ferguson.
Referee: Mr P McGrath.