A superbly executed hat-trick from young left wing starlet David Gray shot Banbridge Town to a 3-1 victory over Glebe Rangers on Saturday afternoon.
Gray’s finishes belied his young years and showed some of his tremendous promise while ensuring Town leapfrogged their opponents into 11th place in the Championship Two table.
Manager Ryan Watson too deserves great praise for the way he has shown great patience with his young stars of the future especially when under pressure to secure vital league points.
James Wilson and Glen Waddell returned to the starting line-up although Stevie Jones missed out through suspension. It was the visitors who created the first scoring chance after five minutes with Mawhinney sneaking in between two Town defenders but he over-ran the ball and the chance was gone.
Four minutes after this, a long 40-yard ball from Chris Wilson caused confusion in the home defence but luckily bounced wide as keeper Stephen Croft struggled.
It was then that star man Gray began to take a hand in preceedings and flashed a free from the right side across goal and narrowly wide. Martin Buchanan and Mattie McCartan were getting to grips in midfield and would go on to dominate showing their best form in weeks.
A fine run and cross from Ryan Evans was well held by Glebe keeper Shannon after 20 minutes although Banbridge suffered a blow when the winger hobbled off soon after to be replaced by Conor Downey.
The latter was soon in the thick of things and a splendid lay off to Jordan Hayes should have resulted in the opening goal but the young striker, on only his second start, delayed his effort and was quickly closed down.
Town had another good chance on 28 minutes when Buchanan picked out Downey with a great crossfield pass but the latter flapped at it and Shannon gathered easily.
After 34 minutes it took a terrific save from Glebe’s Shannon to prevent Gray’s 20 yard ground shot find the corner of the net after a neat lay off from Jordan Hayes.
However, Gray was not to be undone and one minute before the interval, he collected a throw-in before squeezing a well placed shot out of the keeper’s reach and into the far corner to put Town into the lead.
They opened the second period on the offensive and Mattie McCartan sent Ryan Gourley through after 48 minutes but Town’s striker shot straight at Shannon.
Ryan Marks and Peter Kennoway fought hard to bring Glebe an equaliser but this time found the Banbridge defence uncompromising!
Neil Watson had replaced Jordan Hayes upfront for Banbridge and his first action was to flick a ball through to the inrushing Conor Downey who went close with a first time shot into the side netting.
Town put some daylight between themselves and Glebe after 80 minutes when the alert Gray pounced on a sliced clearance from Shannon to blast past the helpless keeper to make it 2-0.
However three minutes later, the Rangers got a lifeline when Town conceded a penalty with a McCartan handball. McDowell made no mistake and it was game on again at 2-1.
Banbridge were quickly on the offensive again and Downey tested Shannon while Stephen Greene was unlucky to see his shot from a corner stopped on the goal-line.
On 86 minutes came the only incident in an otherwise sporting game when Glebe keeper Shannon got his marching orders from referee Chris Morrison after an alleged stamp on Mattie McCartan as he lay on the ground following a clash as they raced for a loose ball.
David Gray wrapped the game up for Banbridge and secured a deserved hat-trick in the 90th minute with a mazy run that ended with the bang-in-form winger tucking his parting shot well out of the stand-in‘keeper’s reach to give Town a 3-1 victory and three welcome points.
BANBRIDGE TOWN: Croft, Wilson, Ferguson, Greene, Waddell, Buchanan, Evans, McCartan, Gourley, Hayes, Gray.
Subs: Orr, Downey (Evans 20), Watson (Hayes 70), Coleman.
GLEBE RANGERS: Shannon, Dobbin, Wilson, Sheppard, Nicholl, Brace, Marks, Kennoway, Mawhinney, McDowell, Christie.
Subs: Morrison (Brace 55), Hume, White (Dobbin 85).
Referee: Chris Morrison, Bangor.