BANBRIDGE Town safely avoided a potential banana skin with a comprehensive victory over hitherto unbeaten Ballymena Provincial Premier League leaders Newtowne at their excellent Scroggy Road ground in Limavady on Saturday last.
It was a terrific all round day for the Town and their band of loyal travelling supporters who thought nothing of taking in the 160 mile round trip to experience a thoroughly professional display from Brian Adair’s ever improving outfit.
Everyone concerned had a great day thanks to the magnificent hospitality from Newtowne F.C. which was second to none. They certainly are a credit to the Ballymena League and deserve the success that is undoubtately coming to them.
With three enforced changes from the Chimney Corner game Town welcomed back Stephen Greene, Stevie McArdle and Mattie McCartan to the starting line-up. This was Mattie’s first game in eight weeks after his pre-Christmas injury.
He was as keen as mustard and after six minutes he split the Newtowne defence with a great ball down the middle which Timmy Grant accepted with a fabulous first touch to cut across goal and place his shot past home ‘keeper McInness and into the net to give Banbridge a dream start.
Newtowne were stunned and despite their best efforts they could not wrestle control from Town and indeed found themselves 2-0 behind after only 15 minutes. Once again Mattie McCartan was instrumental in this goal. A Stuart Thompson throw in found Timmy Grant in space as always and when the latter found McCartan the lively midfielder placed Chris Kingsberry racing in on goal and Chris made no mistake with a strong shot that went in off a post.
Even at this stage it seemed a long way back for the gallant homesters who neverthe less battled gamely with ex. Tobermore and Limavady stars Ian Crockett and Michael Walsh to the fore.
However they found Town’s back four in which Neil Alderdice, who has now really established himself, and Stephen Greene were impenetratable excellent.
Banbridge started the second half where they had left off playing impressive football and working really hard. In the 50th minute they scored an exquisitely worked goal that effectively ended the game as a contest. Timmy Grant and midfield ace Barry Tumilty combined to send Mattie McCartan racing down the right and the latter sent over a cross of pure quality for Stevie McArdle to race in and plant a header past a stranded home ‘keeper to put Town 3-0 ahead.
Willie Herron replaced a tiring Chris McGrath, who had covered every blade of grass, after 57 minutes.
The entire midfield had indeed worked very hard and it was no surprise that Chris Kingsberry would give way to Simon Robb after 68 minutes as the little man’s legs began to feel the strain.
Town’s last substitute Conor Downey, who replaced Timmy Grant, was only on the pitch when he sent Stevie McArdle through only for Newtowne ‘keeper McInness to save well at his feet.
However McArdle was not to be undone and in the 74th minute he skinned the left back and delicately chipped the advancing ‘keeper from an acute angle - a well taken goal that put Town 4-0 in front.
The goal feast didnt end there either! On 83 minutes Mattie McCartan was fouled 22 yards from goal and up stepped dead ball specialist Paul Walsh to blast the free kick into the roof of the net for number five. How often has Paul threatened to do that this season?
Credit must go to the home side who fought to the end and grabbed a consolation goal on 89 minutes when their leading goalscorer, Moore, headed past Stephen Croft after eluding left back Robb.
And so Banbridge are now into Round Five, the last 16, of the Intermediate Cup for the first time in several years. It will be of great interest for Town supporters when the draw is made - this tie will be played on February 16. A home draw would be welcome despite the fact that Town have now won four on the trot away from home.
This was another great team performance with Mattie McCartan deserving of the man-of-the-match award. A liitle known fact among supporters is that the man who introduced Mattie to football at Banbridge Town several years ago is none other than current chairman Andrew Cully!
Next Saturday its back to League Action with ) another away fixture. This time Town travel to Ballymoney to face fourth placed Glebe Rangers (kick-off 3pm)
TEAM: Stephen Croft, Stuart Thompson, Paul Walsh, Neil Alderdice, Stephen Greene, Barry Tumilty, Mattie McCartan, Chris McGrath, Timmy Grant, Chris Kingsberry, Stevie McArdle. Subs: Willie Herron (for McGrath 57mins.), Conor Downey (for Grant 70mins.), Simon Robb (for Kingsberry 68mins.), Stephen O’Neill.
Referee: Des Loughrey, Limavady.
With the transfer deadline on 31st January Brian Adair has again been busy and has added Loughgall defender Neil King (who played for Town a few seasons ago) to his impressive squad and he may not be finished adding just yet! Unfortunately promising central defender Martin Buchanan has decided to throw his weight in with Seapatrick and we wish him well.