It was with much relief and anticipation that the Banbridge Town Supporters Club Bus pulled out to make the long journey to Portstewart on Saturday.
Relief that they at last, after three vacant weeks, were playing a league match. The anticipation was that they could amass another three points as they had done at Wakehurst on their last away fixture.
However, by the final whistle, that had turned to frustration as Town had been edged out and saw Johnny Kernoghan sent off late on.
They started without Conor Downey and the dreadfully unlucky Adam Pedlow, who received a recent setback to his recovery from a knee injury. The Seahawks were first out of the traps and Stephen Greene saved a dangerous cross on his own goal-line two minutes into the game. Greene should have given Town the lead soon after when he headed over from a quality Mark Teggart cross.
Banbridge were gaining the upper hand and forced another corner after 15 minutes. Steven O’Neill challenged the home keeper Madison from Johnny Kernoghan’s inviting cross and when the ball went into the air, Greene was unfortunate to see his header smash against a post.
On 22 minutes, a free was given against Stephen Jones and Portstewart’s James Pedan saw his 30-yard strike career off the top of Town’s crossbar.
After 31 minutes the homesters had an amazing let off!. A great Town move instigated by man of the match Martin Buchanan saw the big central defender put Mark Teggart racing down the right. The lively winger fired a cross to Damian McParland, whose powerful header hit the underside of the crossbar with the keeper beaten before being cleared off the line.
It was a relieved home side who went in on level terms at the interval. Town introduced Mattie McCartan after 65 and he was soon in the action. He got behind the Seahawks’ defence shortly after coming on but his header didn’t trouble Madison in the home goal.
Two Banbridge bookings followed as both sides went for the jugular. The visitors felt Damian McParland was harshly carded and Johnny Kernoghan saw yellow for a foul on the marauding right back.
Portstewart striker Turner was thwarted from giving the home side the lead on 70 minutes when Town keeper Stephen Cairnduff plucked his goal-bound header from the top corner and Neill crashed the rebound into the side netting. At the other end, Dee McParland flashed a header narrowly wide from a McCartan corner.
At this stage it was Town who looked the more likely to grab a winner and a 25-yard volley from Mattie McCartan stretched Madison who punched clear with Gary Boyle, who followed up blasting over.
There was a bit of controversy when McCartan was hauled down by McAllister who had already been booked. However, referee John Deighan felt it wasn’t a foul and it was the beginning of a disappointing end to a tight game for the visitors.
On 84 minutes, Johnny Kernoghan was adjudged to have committed a foul 20 yards from his own goal and to rub salt into the Banbridge wound, Portstewart’s James Pedan stepped up and planted the resulting free-kick around the wall and into the corner of the net past a bemused Stephen Cairnduff who will feel he could have done better.
It was a goal that would turn out to be the winner for Portstewart and proved to be a real sucker punch to Town in there return to league action.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Johnny Kernoghan saw red soon after for alleged verbals with a linesman as things went from bad to worse for Town.
Try as they did, Banbridge could not muster an equaliser and will feel really aggrieved to have lost this tight affair.
TOWN: Stephen Cairnduff, Glen Waddell, James Wilson, Stephen Greene, Martin Buchanan, Damian McParland, Mark Teggart, Stephen Jones, Gary Boyle, Steven O’Neill, Johnny Kernoghan.
Subs: Mattie McCartan (Teggart 65), Dominic Donnelly (O’Neill 78), Michael Ferguson.