BANBRIDGE entertained Kilkeel in the first round of the prestigious Irish Junior Cup at Havelock Park.
The Seconds, having reached the semi-final of same competition last season, were determined to get their cup run off to a winning start but knew they’d be in for a difficult game against an in-form Kilkeel side.
Banbridge welcomed Matthew Hurst into the squad following his return from the triumphant Ulster U16’s squad.
Banbridge started strongly and had a considerable amount of possession creating several early circle penetrations but without an end result. An early attack did lead to McAnulty finding himself free in the circle after beating a couple of Kilkeel defenders however his shot hit the bar.
Kilkeel were managing to absorb the pressure and utilised their pace upfront with some quick counter attacks but the Banbridge defence marshalled by the reliable Junior Burns managed to nullify those attacks.
Woods and McAnulty were tormenting the Kilkeel defence and won a couple of short corners but the Kilkeel keeper managed to save the drag flicks from the top of the circle.
Towards the end of the first half Stergeon fired in a fierce cross from the right hand side of the 25 and after the initial deflection was well saved by the Kilkeel keeper Reay was on hand to slot the rebound in to give Bann a deserved lead.
Reay playing at right midfield was causing Kilkeel real problems and after beating a couple of Kilkeel players was fouled in the circle and Bann were awarded another short corner. On this occasion Anderson made no mistake to give Bann a two goal advantage going into half time.
Kilkeel got off to a great start in the second half managing to score with their first attack. After good play down their right hand side the ball fell to a Kilkeel forward and his reverse stick shot was deflected by Sturgeon past O’Neill in the Bann goal.
Kilkeel were now on a high and troubled the Bann defence on a couple of occasions. Bann managed to regain control and after a great move between Woods and McAnulty, McAnulty fired the ball past the Kilkeel keeper to regain Bann’s two goal advantage.
Bann should have increased their lead but squandered several good chances from short corners.
Kilkeel got back into the match with 10 minutes to go after Anderson misjudged a deflected aerial the ball fell to a Kilkeel forward who entered the circle and shot past O’Neill on his reverse.
Kilkeel, now seeking an equaliser, pressed forward and had several good chances but Bann managed to see out the remaining period and progress to the next round of the cup which is scheduled for 26 January.