IT was a confident and well prepared Town side that stepped out at Lakeview Park, Loughgall last Tuesday night for their biggest game in a long time as they faced Championship 1 hotshots Institute for a place in this season’s Coca-Cola Intermediate Cup final.
Indeed it was Banbridge’s first appearance at this stage since they captured this coveted trophy back in 1986.
A large crowd of supporters from had made the journey to Loughgall but they like the team were shellshocked by what they had to endure during the first 30 minutes of this semi-final.
The Derry men pulverised the Town with a wonderful display of clinical football which left the locals gasping for breath as they fought in vain to get into the game.
They pressurised Town all over the park, were quicker in thought and movement and quite simply gave Brian Adair’s men no time whatsoever on the ball. The Town support feared the worst!
Apart from an early Chris McGrath shot which was cleared it was all Institute. Aaron Walsh and Darren McFadden were dictating things for ‘Stute and with their highly rated strike force McCrudden and Parkhouse creating fear in an overworked Banbridge defence it seemed only a matter of time before the floodgates opened.
A goal had to come and it was no surprise when after 12 minutes McCrudden got in behind the Banbridge rearguard to blast into the corner of the net after racing on to a precision cross from the left.
Young ‘keeper James McConville produced a great double save in the 19th minute from McCrudden to prevent a certain score after the ‘Stute number 10 latched on to a misplaced Mattie McCartan pass.
Three minutes later full back Jarvis, a constant thorn all night, got on the end of a Sean Roddy corner and was a whisker away from increasing his side ‘s lead.
Town’s first real chance came on 24 minutes when Institute ‘keeper Wilson fumbled a Chris Kingsberry drive but Willie Herron was slow to react and the chance was gone.
However Banbridge were certainly coming more into the game and Paul Walsh forced a fine save from Wilson following a 25 yard free kick.
Spurred on by the fact they were only 1 - 0 behind Town now began to exert some pressure having finally come to terms with the tempo of the game.
Timmy Grant fired over the bar after a Willie Herron knock back on the 18 yard line after 40 minutes. Grant and Kingsberry combined two minutes later for the latter to force a point blank save from Wilson.
Kingsberry ended the half with another 20 yard volley which a relieved Wilson saved with some difficulty.
Ironically Town could have been on level terms at the interval had it not been for the good work from ‘keeper Wilson. The half-time break seemed to interrupt Town’s momentum and it was Institute who began the second half as they had started the first - on the attack. McKeever was wide of the post on 46 minutes.
McFadden picked up a clearance from Neil Alderdice but McConville came to Town’s rescue with another good save.
However Town were determined that Institute would not dominate as they had in the first half and a snap shot from Chris Kingsberry after 51 minutes wasn’t far away.
The game was now in the melting pot with Banbridge deserving credit for the way they had fought their way back into it when all seemed lost! McFadden fired across goal but lucky for Town no-one was on hand to finish on 62 minutes but three minutes later Town were dealt a fatal blow when they conceded a penalty for a foul on the dangerous McFadden. Stephen Parkhouse stepped up to fire past McConville to send Institute into a 2-0 lead.
Town introduced Conor Downey and Steven O’Neill and threw caution to the wind as they fought to get thenselves a lifeline.
Chris McGrath’s powerful drive ricocheted off Wilson after the midfield ace had connected with a Conor Downey cross. Banbridge’s last substitute Stephen Jones entered the fray but it was to no avail and at the final whistle it was Institute who had deservedly qualified for the cup final on the first Monday in May.
In the cold reality of day Town can have no quibbles. However they can take some consolation in the fact that Institute ‘keeper Corey Wilson was named man of the match.
Banbridge Town: James McConville, Stuart Thompson, Paul Walsh, Neil Alderdice, Stephen Greene, Barry Tumilty, Mattie McCartan, Willie Herron, Timmy Grant, Chris Kingsberry, Chris McGrath. Subs: Conor Downey(for Walsh 65mins.), Stephen O’Neill (for McCartan 77 mins.), Stephen Jones (for McGrath 88 mins.), Ryan Gourley, Aaron Cobb.
Institute: Corey Wilson, Sean Roddy, Dean Jarvis, Joe Gray, Paddy McLaughlin, Declan McKeever, Darren McCauley, Aaron Walsh, Stephen Parkhouse, Michael McCrudden, Darren McFadden. Subs: Robbie Hume, Niall Logue, Warner Mullen(for Parkhouse 77 mins.), Graeme Taylor, Ryan Semple(for McFadden 77 mins.)
Referee: Keith Kennedy (Lisburn).