Banbridge secure top spot in IHL pool

BANBRIDGE travelled to Dublin to take on Glenanne in their final pool game of this seasons IHL, knowing that a win or even a losing bonus point would secure top place in their group.

Bann were again without Owen Magee due to injury.

The locals started the game well as they got used to a difficult pitch. They were passing the ball with conviction and controlling possession of the game. Bann first chance fell to Dane Ward, after some good interplay by Phillip Brown and Stephen Dowds, Ward was found in the circle but his quick shot went wide of the target.

Bann continued to look for a break through and their first short corner of the game went narrowly wide of the goal. Glenanne employed a very aggressive press throughout the first quarter but both Drew Carlisle and Stephen Forbes dealt well with the pressure.

The home side also bombarded the Bann defence with aerials in the first quarter but these again were well dealt with by the Bann back four.

The Lurgan Road side got the break through mid way through the first quarter, a fast break by Stephen Dowds ended in a shot that was well saved by the Glenanne ‘keeper, fortunately the ball broke to Dane Ward who finished into the unguarded goal. Bann now had their tails up and were nearly two up after Johnny McKee stole the ball on the left wing but his effort was denied by the keeper. Bann finished the quarter on top winning another short corner, this time the ball was mis-trapped but Stephen Dowds managed to keep the ball alive and his effort clipped the top of the crossbar.

Bann started the second half on the back foot as Glenanne started to string more passes and gain more possession of the ball.

Gareth Lennox was again in excellent form all day for Banbridge pulling off some superb saves to keep Banbridge in control of the game. Glenanne continued to crank up the pressure and soon found an equaliser, a corner variation left Lennox with no chance to make it all square half way through the second quarter. Bann played poorly in the second quarter partly due to the pitch, with an increasing number of mistakes creeping into the game.

Glenanne took full advantage of this as they continued to threaten the Banbridge goal. However, Lennox was on hand again to make a number of saves to frustrate the Glenanne forwards. The half ended with the scores at 1-1.

The beginning of the third quarter was poor with neither sides making any break through. Again Bann’s corner team failed to get anything on target after a bobble at the top of the circle made it impossible for Bann to get an effort away. Glenanne were now using their aerial ball effectively into space as Bann struggled to deal with players running out onto these balls. Lennox was called into action again, making a smart save with his left foot to keep the scores level.

Bann had a good opportunity to take the lead but the chance was wasted by Josh Moffett, who’s effort went wide of the goal. The third quarter ended all square at 1-1.

Bann started the final quarter of the game with a real intensity that had not been present since the first quarter of the game.

They were unlucky not to take the lead after the Glenanne keeper made a couple of good saves from the Bann forwards.

Banbridge were then forced to play with ten men after Phillip Brown was given a yellow card for a rash tackle near the half way line. However, this did not hinder Bann’s attacking intent and soon took the lead. Bruce McCandless did well to beat his man making a strong run along the baseline, his pass found Dane Ward who finished low into the goal for his second of the game.

Glenanne were not lying down and pressed for a way back into the game. Bann defence stood strong and despite conceding a short corner on the final whistle won the match 2-1.

Bann finished their pool with maximum points and now travel to Dublin next weekend to take on Cookstown in the semi-finals

hoping to secure a place in the final the following day. BANBRIDGE HOCKEY CLUB