BANBRIDGE took on Civil Service in their penultimate home game of the season, Bann were looking to consolidate their lead at the top of the table, knowing if they recorded three wins in the next three games the league will be theirs for the first time in 24 years.
Banbridge were without Matthew Bell (hamstring) and Drew Carlisle (work commitments).
Throughout the first half Bann dominated proceedings, controlling possession and territory in the game, Civil Service’s deep press meant that space was hard for the Bann forwards and midfield to find any sort of space.
Bann persisted and were unlucky not to go ahead, after a great piece of skill by Peter Brown, his ball flashed across the circle with a Bann forward unable to get a decisive touch.
Service played the majority of the game on the break but these attacks were few and far between and were well dealt with by the Bann defence.
Banbridge continued to have lots of possession but couldn’t get the break through, as their rhythm was disrupted by Civil’’s deep press.
Mistakes were littered throughout the Banbridge side, but they finally got the break through, after a good steal in midfield by Hugh McShane, he fed Simon Magowan on the base line, who crossed for Johnny McKee to tap in at the back post.
Service were not lying down however and began to come forward more as the half went on. Their attacking play paid off and had their equaliser five minutes before half time, a crash ball in was finished well at the back post.
Bann continued to push forward after conceding the goal and were unlucky not to be ahead at half time, with Fraser Mills unlucky not to connect with his reverse stick effort in the circle.
Bann started the second half with a better tempo, forcing mistakes from the Service defence. Bann also started to play better hockey, with Owen Magee and Peter Brown running proceedings in midfield.
Bann went ahead through Dane Ward after a precise pass from Magowan set Ward free, who finished well past the Service ‘keeper. The Lurgan Road outfit were in control of the match as Stevie Dowds found space in the circle but his shot sailed over the cross bar.
They continued to push and their attacking play resulted in a short corner, the resulting flick from Dowds was well saved off the line by a Service defender.
Civil continued to play on the break but as in the first half were unable to get anything from Bann’s back four who were giving nothing away.
Bann should have been 3-1 up and out of sight, after Dowds’ drag flick was saved on the line illegally by a Service player a stroke was awarded. However, Dowds was unable to convert giving Service a lifeline in the match.
Civil Service nearly took advantage of this, with four short corners in a row, these were well dealt with by Gareth Lennox in the Bann goal.
Banbridge gave themselves some breathing space in the match, Stevie Dowds short corner as well saved by the Service ‘keeper but the rebound broke kindly to Josh Moffett who finished into an unguarded goal.
The game began to open up as Service looked for a way back into the game, Bann defended well in the closing stages and scored a fourth. Phillip Brown who was finding acres of space in the right channel, fed Moffett in the circle, who finished past the diving Service goalkeeper.
Banbridge now only need two wins from their remaining three games to secure the league title. They entertain Instonians on Wednesday night at Havelock hoping to take one step closer to the title.