IT’S not an ideal situation going into your first league game of any season without four recognised first-teamers but such a scenario faced Ronnie Haughey’s Banbridge Town on Saturday last.
Simon Robb and James Wilson were on holidays for Saturday’s game against Glebe at Crystal Park while another defender, Danny Johnson, had a slight hamstring problem which forced him to start on the subs bench. New signing Darren McGrath had a one match suspension carried over from last season.
Ultimately it was the loss of both full backs which was to be Town’s downfall as the homesters were blitzed down the flanks during a disastrous first half and although they did improve after the interval the damage had been done and they simply hadn’t the firepower up front to pull the game out of the fire.
They started brightly and the game was only minutes old when Chris McGrath lost his marker and his cross found Steven O’Neill, a new signing from Hillsborough Boys, but the youngster’s attempted 12-yard volley was blocked by a last ditch tackle from a Glebe defender. At the other end Morrison fired across goal in the visitors’ first attack.
Play was pretty even at this early stage and Town ‘keeper Stephen Cairnduff held a 20 yard free kick from Glebe’s Elder soon after.
Town had a free kick of their own minutes later but captain for the season, Stuart Thompson, fired straight at Kane from 30 yards.
Barry Tumilty and Chris McGrath were doing working like Trojans in Town’s midfield and in the 18th minute the latter found O’Neill with a great pass down the left. The young forward beat a couple of defenders but unfortunately pulled his cross behind his advancing forwards and the chance was lost.
Tumilty volleyed high and over following a Town corner minutes later but in truth the home side were creating very little although new boys Steven O’Neill and Johnny Porter showed that they could have more to offer long term.
Banbridge found themselves 1-0 behind after 26 minutes when Graeme Edgar’s attempted head clearance fell to the dangerous Kennoway in front of goal and unmarked and the Glebe striker gave Cairnduff no chance with a shot into the bottom corner.
Town were stung and Conor Downey raced through only to be fouled just outside the box. Thompson was only inches wide with the resultant free-kick.
Town’s right flank was badly exposed again after 36 minutes when Glebe’s Henry produced a great run that saw him ghost past a static home rearguard to blast past the advancing Cairnduff to give his side a deserved 2-0 lead.
The visitors were first out of the traps at the start of the second half and Morrison’s right wing cross was met by the head of Elder in the 47th minute - this time Cairnduff was equal to the Glebe striker’s effort.
Town now introduced Danny Johnson for the injured Neil Watson and his first action was to get himself booked for a clumsy late tackle.
Town’s best move of the match came after 64 minutes and involved Downey, O’Neill and Porter but was cleared by the alert Glebe defence.
They had a great chance to get back into the game in the 72nd minute when they were awarded a penalty after Chris McGrath was upended in the box. However Thompson’s spot kick rebounded of the bar with the ‘keeper going the wrong way.
Three minutes later Glebe’s Elder raced from his own 18 yard box to fire just over Town’s crossbar. Banbridge were finally getting their act together – although it was far too late - pushing forward and producing some decent football although the nearest they came to scoring was a glancing header from the unlucky Stuart Thompson which whizzed just past the upright with Kane beaten in the 80th minute.
Stephen Jones replaced Porter in the Town attack in a bid to change things but things petered out to the inevitable conclusion as the Ballymoney men got their season off to the perfect start.
It is early days yet but the availability of Town’s full backs Robb and Wilson cannot come quick enough - and that’s just for starters!
Banbridge Town: Stephen Cairnduff, Mattie McCartan, Graeme Edgar, Stuart Thompson, Neil Watson, Barry Tumilty, Stevie McArdle, Chris MCGrath, Conor Downey, Johnny Porter, Steven O’Neill Subs: Danny Johnson (for Watson 45mins), Stephen Jones (for Porter 80mins), Michael Ferguson, Martin Buchanan, Kieran Maguire (GK).
Glebe Rangers: Brian Kane, Jonathan Nicholl, Chad Dobbin, Alan Sheppard, Jonathan Rice, Ryan Marks, Gareth Henry, Adam McCart, Peter Kennoway, Thomas Elder, Jackie Morrison Subs: Jason McClay(for McNicholl 90mins), Martin Shaw (for Henry 80mins), David McVicker
Referee: Keith Kennedy, Lisburn.
Next Tuesday (August 14th) Banbridge Town will entertain Queens University in the first round of the Irn-Bru League Cup - kick-off is at 6.45pm with extra time and penalties if required.
On the following Saturday (August 18th) Town travel to Castledawson to play Wakehurst in the I.F.A Championship (kick-off 3pm).
Saturday August 25th sees Town travel again, this time to Lurgan Celtic (kick-off 3pm), while on Saturday September 1 Portstewart will travel to Crystal Park in the IFA Championship, kick-off 3pm.