A DEPLEATED Banbridge Town side have Steven O’Neill to thank for grabbing a point for them on Easter Tuesday evening on a very bumpy and uneven Portstewart ground.
With Liverpool’s chief Northern Ireland scout Barry Hunter an interested spectator Town produced a blueprint of their first half performance at home to Wakehurst when they yet again totally dominated proceedings but failed to show this dominance on the scoreboard.
Already minus Paul Walsh and Chris McGrath (injured) Town were also missing Timmy Grant, Kevin Henry and Glen Waddell for the long journey to the Seahawks.
Despite the rugged surface Town tried to play fast ground football and had Portstewart under pressure from early on. Chris Kingsberry played Conor Downey through after only four minutes and the Town number nine tested Joel Maddison in the Portstewart goal with a fierce drive.
The pacy Steven O’Neill drifted in from the left in the 14th minute side stepping a number of tackles only to see his final effort hit the side netting.
A minute later Willie Herron lobbed over the bar from 18 yards and the travelling support were left wondering was it going to be another one of those days for Banbridge!.They were showing great workrate and effort but failing at the final fence .
Captain Barry Tumilty sent over an inviting cross which Herron met with a downward header which ‘keeper Maddison saved low at his right hand post.
Town net minder Morley-Hillen had no direct saves to make throughout the entire first half yet the sides turned round on level terms.
However Portstewart battled back on the restart and certainly came more into the game and as so often happens took the lead with virtually their first dangerous attack after 51 minutes. Their big centre forward picked up a fine pass inside Town’s penalty box and scored with a volley into the corner of the net.
A stunned Banbridge rallied but couldn’t create much until the 75th minute. Mattie McCartan picked out Steven O’Neill with a long pass and the latter showed terrific acceleration as he burst between the two central defenders before giving Maddison no chance with a fine finish to level the scores at 1-1.
Town tried hard to secure a winning goal but were thwarted by good defending and had to settle for a share of the spoils. It was fitting that O’Neill should be Town’s scorer as he had been the chief threat up front for Town, winning a lot of aerial duels as well as showing exceptional pace.
Substitute Aaron Cobb replaced Neil King in the later stages as Town pushed forward.
TEAM: Nathan Morley-Hillen, Mattie McCartan, Stuart Thompson, Neil Alderdice, Neil King, Barry Tumilty, Adam Pedlow, Willie Herron, Conor Downey, Chris Kingsberry, Steven O’Neill. Subs: Aaron Cobb (for King 85 mins.), Emmet Scullion, Brian Adair.
Referee: Eddie Ferguson (Coleraine).