Best display of the season by Town

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RELEGATED Banbridge Town are determined to go out of Championship 1 in a blaze of glory and on Saturday last turned in their best display of the season with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Steel & Sons Cup finalists Larne despite a depleted squad.

Daniel Johnston (suspended) and Stephen Jones (exam-tied) were already missing when James Wilson pulled up with a leg injury in the pre-match warm up. Aaron Cobb made his first start in place of Wilson and never put a foot wrong throughout.

Town played a lovely brand of football all afternoon  and central defenders Stuart Thompson and fit again Neil Watson nullified the obvious threat from Larne’s prolific front two Paul Maguire and Adam Dick.

The platform for this impressive performance came in the form of Chris Kingsberry, Barry Tumilty and Chris McGrath who ruled midfield with a display of steel, passion and skill. Stevie McArdle covered every blade of grass as did fellow striker and Town’s leading goalscorer Conor Downey.

The game was only four minutes old when a sublime ball from Ryan Moffatt found Downey on the edge of the box and the latter tested Larne ‘keeper Henry with a fierce drive. One minute later the ‘keeper pushed out a Tumilty volley but the ever alert Moffatt pounced before any of the visiting defenders and gave Henry no chance to give the Town a dream start.

After nine minutes Downey dispossessed Larne centre half Carland and forced a fruitless corner and Henry had to be alert in the 15th minute to keep out a 20 yard Kingsberry drive.

It was all Town as Larne struggled to get into the game and were fortunate not to go further behind after 22 minutes when a deep Simon Robb cross was met by a sliding Stevie McArdle who  saw his effort end in the side netting.

Larne’s first real threat came from a White free kick which Maguire turned away for a corner. Town were creating plenty of chances and a great run from Kingsberry when he picked a ball up on the half-way line took the diminutive midfield ace through the Inver Park men’s rearguard and resulted in the ball flashing across an empty goal with Robb just failing to get a final touch.

Henry thwarted a certain Downey score with a fine save at the latter’s feet after 30 minutes. In a rare Larne attack Adam Dick sent a swerving 30 yard free kick just past the post and McClean was wide in another raid soon after.

A terrible mix up in the visitors defence after 41 minutes let Conor Downey in and the Town’s top marksman made no mistake to put the homesters 2-0 ahead.

Larne were a more determined outfit after the break and the ever improving Kieran Maguire saved at the base of the post from an Adam Dick shot.

Both sides continued to play good football on a heavy surface and in the 55th minute McArdle placed Downey in front of goal but the latter was well wide with his drive. Adam Dick was trying all he knew to bring Larne back into the game and he forced Maguire to push another effort for a corner in the 59th minute.

His fellow striker Paul Maguire was unlucky in the 62nd minute when he crashed a volley of the upright with his namesake Town ‘keeper Maguire beaten. The homesters rallied and McArdle had a shot go agonisingly wide after a neat turn in the box after more good work from Kingsberry and Tumilty. T

he points were secured after 70 minutes when Downey was upended as he honed in on goal and Stuart Thompson stepped up to crash the resultant penalty into the roof of the net to put Town 3-0 ahead.

Larne were reduced to 10 men with the unlucky Robbie White seeing red for a last man tackle.

A cheeky Tumilty chip after 77 minutes had Henry scrambling to save. The latter saved full length from McArdle after 83 minutes, Kingsberry and McGrath being architects in the move.

Larne’s Paul Maguire had the last scoring chance of the game but his namesake in the Banbridge goal was equal to his effort.

A great all round display from Town and indeed the three points could prove invaluable as it gives them an excellent chance of moving off the bottom of the League Table - a victory in next Saturday’s final league game away to Glebe Rangers in Ballymoney kick-off 3pm will achieve this. It’s not just going to be a dull last-game -of-the-season scenario this time. 

Banbridge Town: Kieran Maguire, Aaron Cobb, Simon Robb, Stuart Thompson, Neil Watson, Barry Tumilty, Ryan Moffatt, Chris McGrath, Conor Downey, Chris Kingsberry, Stephen McArdle. Subs: Adam McBurney, Ian McDowell. 

Larne: David Henry, Jamie Marsh, Aaron Lemon, Robbie White, Liam Carland, Brian McClean, Gary Workman, Niall McAllister, Paul Maguire, Adam Dick, Craig Todd. Subs: Reece Moore, Lee Campbell, Sencer Yilmaz, Peter Steele, Darren Gibbons (GK).

Referee: Wesley Campbell (Augher).