WHAT a difference a week makes!
This time last week Town supporters were lamenting a 2-0 league defeat to Queens Univ. despite having had 70% territorial advantage and playing very attractive football until they reached their opponents 18 yard box.
This Saturday, with an unchanged lineout and on an immaculate Stangmore Park pitch in Dungannon, they continued with a lovely brand of ground football on a surface that really suited their style and in this instance showed a lot more threat up front to secure a comfortable 4-1 victory and a passage into the Bob Radcliffe Cup semi-final where they will face old foes Loughgall.
Indeed such was Town’s dominance on Saturday that had they taken even half the chances that they created the score would have been into double figures.
It was the homesters who started on the offensive and left winger Stretton skipped past Mattie McCartan to cross into Town’s penalty area but the covering Paul Walsh was on hand to clear.
The latter was to prove a real handful for Dungannon throughout the 90 plus minutes and he tormented them with his tantalising crosses that wrecked havoc in the home rearguard.
Dungannon’s P.J. Lavery - one of two first teamers on duty - had a free kick held by Michael McAllister.
Stevie McArdle collected a ball some 50 yards from goal and set off on a great run that took him past several despairing defenders before a last ditch tackle thwarted him - Chris McGrath’s follow up going over the bar.
Town almost went ahead after 21 minutes when a text book Walsh cross just eluded the inrushing Conor Downey while a minute later a deft lay off from Chris Kingsberry saw McArdle’s drive shave a post.
Town were stroking the ball around confidently and home ‘keeper Curran rescued his side with a point blank from Downey after the number nine had been the recipient of another superb Paul Walsh pass.
Stevie McArdle was looking hungry and dangerous and when his 34th minute goalbound effort was handled by a Dungannon defender club skipper Stuart Thompson stepped up to send Curran the wrong way from the penalty spot and give Banbridge a dserved 1-0 lead.
Although the homesters came back to force successive corners it was Town who assumed control and Downey glanced a header just wide on 36 minutes with Curran beaten.
Walsh raced through and chipped his shot into the keeper’s arms as Town turned on the pressure while it seemed Conor Downey’s pursuit of that elusive goal had come to an end when he outpaced the home defence to Chris Kingsberry’s run and pass only to see his effort scooped over the bar.
In an isolated Dungannon attack Lavery fired into the side netting after 43 minutes. However Town did make it 2-0 just before the break when after the excellent Chris McGrath won the ball in midfield and found Paul Walsh marauding down the wing - the latter once again fired across goal with Chris Kingsberry bundling the ball into the net.
The trend continued as the second half got underway and Curran had to be alert to pluck a right wing Kingsberry cross of the head of the lurking Downey on 54 minutes.
Forker and Lavery tried hard to resurrect Dungannon’s fading Cup hopes but Chris McGrath seemed to have put the game well out of their reach after 59 minutes when he appeared unmarked in the box to head a Paul Walsh cross well out of Curran’s despairing dive to make it 3-0 to Town.
Kingsberry almost increased the lead soon after but his shot finished in the side netting. Substitute Daryl Magee gave his side a lifeline after 70 mins when he cracked home a magnificent free kick from all of 35 yards which left Michael McAllister grasping at air.
Darren McGrath replaced the injured James Wilson at this stage with the versatile Paul Walsh reverting to left back.
The luckless Conor Downey crashed a great volley off the bar inthe 74th minute and the game was certainly over mi nutes later when Stevie McArdle pulled the ball across goal into the path of Chris McGrath who fired into the corner of the net for his second goal of the game to send Town into an unassailable lead.
Town Caretaker Manager Ryan Watson introduced Graeme Edgar and Stephen O’Neill in place of Stevie McArdle and Conor Downey as they ran out time.
The only sour note in an otherwise impressive display was the dismissal of Barry Tumilty in the 83rd minute for alleged foul language to the referee.
Just before the end Paul Walsh was denied a deserved goal when his scorcher from 30 yards flew inches over with the ‘keeper stranded.
A thoroughly impressive and moral boosting victory and one which we all hope they can carry into this Saturday’s league clash with Moyola Park at Crystal Park (kick-off 3.00pm)
There were a few contenders for man-of-the -match namely Paul Walsh, Stevie McArdle or Chris McGrath with the central defender Stuart Thompson and Martin Buchanan also worth mentioning.
TEAM: Michael McAllister, Mattie McCartan, James Wilson, Stuart Thompson, Martin Buchanan, Barry Tumilty, Stephen McArdle, Chris McGrath, Conor Downey, Chris Kingsberry, Paul Walsh. Subs: Graeme Edgar (for McArdle 85mins.),Daniel Johnson, Darren McGrath (for Wilson 72mins.), Stephen O’Neill(for Downey 77mins.), Stephen Croft (GK).
Referee: Gerard Murray, Dungannon.