Strength in depth is vitally important to maintain a challenge for league honours.
Therefore, it was inevitable that with five regulars unavailable (Wilson, Waddell, Jones, Pedlow and Walsh) Town would struggle against a talented Queen’s at Crystal Park on Saturday.
The home side had several chances to score but in the end, Queen’s took theirs and Town did not. Banbridge had three new signings on the bench - Shannon Drainey (ex Lurgan Celtic), Keith McVittie (ex Ballinamallard/Seapatrick) and Michael McAllister, returning for his second spell at Crystal Park.
The game was only two minutes old when a Mark Teggart cross found its way to Conor Downey whose shot on the turn whizzed past the post. It was all Town pressure and Teggart was so unlucky not to score when a reflex shot from a corner trickled wide. On 20 minutes, Teggart was ruing another missed chance as he headed wide.
Kevin Hagan then raced between two back-tracking home defenders but saw his effort stopped by the foot of Town’s Martin Buchanan. A long range effort from Allison sailed wide before a good Town move saw McCartan and Teggart combine before the latter’s cross was just taken off the head of the dangerously positioned Steven O’Neill for a Town corner.
Conor Downey went closest to putting Banbridge ahead when his effort following the corner rattled the crossbar before being scrambled clear. Just a minute before the break, Downey latched on to a superb McParland pass but came off second best in a one on one with keeper Brown. The second period produced more open play and Conor Downey sent in a curling shot which big keeper Brown safely held.
On 56 minutes, Queen’s hard-working Thompson volleyed inches over from 18 yards while at the other end Town’s Johnny Kernoghan raced on to a long clearance but was crowded out by some good covering.
A goal was inevitable and it went to the visitors on the hour mark when Aaron Thompson drilled a brilliant 20 yard free kick through Town’s wall and into the corner past the diving Stephen Cairnduff. Typically Banbridge pushed Queen’s back in search of the equaliser and a fine Stephen Greene header was pushed out by Brown minutes later
The keeper came to his side’s rescue on 75 minutes when he blocked a Steven O’Neill piledriver after Martin Buchanan had found his No.9 with a flicked pass. Seconds later the Town’s leading goal-scorer found the side netting after collecting a ball on the right side of the penalty box. However, Queens showed why they will be in with a shout come the start of May when they went 2-0 ahead after 83 minutes.
It was Dromore man Daniel Culbert who broke Town’s hearts when he was first to react to a left wing corner to direct his header to the net.
To their credit Banbridge fought to the end and it looked as if they were back in the game on 85 minutes when sub Neil Watson sent a great drive from way out on the left over a despairing Declan Brown and into the roof of the net. However, the referee ruled it out to Town’s great disappointment.
It just wasn’t Town’s day and Steven O’Neill had another good chance blocked by Brown as the home side fought to the finish. However, it was Queen’s day and a deserved three points for a side who will certainly have a big say in the honours come the end of the season.
Banbridge Town Football Club would like to sincerely thank Higgins’ Bar and Banbridge Cryo Spa (proprietor Matt Hazley) for recent Match Sponsorship.
TOWN: Cairnduff, Ferguson, Baird, Greene, Buchanan, McParland, Teggart, McCartan, O’Neill, Downey, Kernoghan.
Subs: Boyle (Teggart 68), Drainey (Ferguson 85), Watson (Baird 85), McVittie, McAllister.
QUEEN’S: Brown, Culbert, Prenter, Harper, McDonald, Keenan, Allison, Hagan, Lavery, Thompson, Fulton.
Subs: McDowell, Ferrin (Keenan 88), Black (Fulton 80), O’Hare (Thompson 77), McMillan.