HOPING to get 2013 off to a good start, Banbridge Town U17s travelled to Belfast to take on Carrick Rangers and returned home with a well earned point, thanks to a late equaliser from Ryan Higgins.
Banbridge started well with early chances for both Eoin Monaghan and Daryl King as Ryan Higgins and Conor Byrne threatened the Carrick defence on the wings.
Also impressing was right-back Ryan Finnegan who was able to get forward and create chances for the Town.
At the other end, the centre-back pairing of Stephen Stewart and Dominic Donnelly kept the Carrick attack at bay.
Despite their threat going forward, it was Carrick who took the lead when, from what appeared to be an offside position, their forward had a simple finish from just inside the penalty box.
This didn’t deter the Banbridge side and in the second half, they continued to battle for an equaliser, with Aaron Heaney creating some excellent chances. The side were also boosted by the return of captain Ben McDowell, who had been out with injury since early December.
Carrick too had their fair share of chances but goalkeeper Michael Corden - filling in for the injured Chris Coleman, made some great saves.
To the despair of the U17s however, Carrick doubled their lead when their forward found himself in space and duly fired the ball into the back of the net.
Banbridge still felt that they were able to get something from this match and with Matthew Millar and Matthew Stevenson coming on the Town had a greater attacking threat.
They went all out to get a result, playing three up front and this created numerous chances for Banbridge. Both Matthew Millar and Michael Mallon were unlucky not to score when they were through on goal and Aaron Heaney also saw a shot narrowly miss the target.
Not long after though, Ryan Higgins had the ball on the outside of the box and after smartly beating one man, rifled a shot past the keeper into the top corner to get Banbridge back into the match.
Time was not on the U17s side and when they found themselves with a corner in the last minute, they knew this was their last chance to salvage a point.
The ball was whipped in and not cleared by the Carrick defence, letting Ryan Higgins, to the delight of the Banbridge side, pounce and put the ball past the helpless Carrick keeper. There was barely time for Carrick to restart before the referee blew the final whistle to end a dramatic game.
Banbridge deservedly took a share of the spoils from this game and manager Bob Mulligan and coaches Matty McCartan and Kieran Byrne will be hoping they can carry this fighting spirit into next week’s game.
Team: Michael Corden; Ryan Finnegan; Stephen Stewart; Dominic Donnelly; Daryl King; Ryan Higgins; Sean Kelly; Michael Mallon; Aaron Heaney; Conor Byrne; Eoin Monaghan. Subs: Matthew Stevenson; Ben McDowell; Matthew Millar.