Banbridge Rangers 4
Annagh United 2
THE blue half of Banbridge were celebrating last Friday night when Rangers knocked Championship side Annagh United out of the WKD Core Intermediate Cup at Cheney Park.
The crowd of over 300 supporters set a new record for a home Banbridge Rangers match and had plenty of entertainment on the night with six goals and end to end action.
Although Annagh United are not making waves in the league they have had some very good cup results this year and got off to a confident start on Friday night against an eager Rangers side.
Annagh were on top in the opening exchanges and took advantage of Banbridge Rangers lack of cohesion and opened the scoring after 10 minutes with a fine glancing header from Jamie Uprichard. Ivon Blevins then pulled off a superb save to keep the score at 1-0 and this seemed to be the wake up call for Rangers with Richard McMinn and Colin Cousins starting to influence the game more in the middle of the park.
Banbridge Rangers striker Gareth Fulton had been missing through illness the week before the match but showed no signs of fatigue with a superb turn of pace to somehow beat Nelson in the Annagh nets to a through ball and duly slotted home Rangers equaliser on 19 minutes to send the home support into raptures.
Just over five minutes later Banbridge Rangers took the lead for the first time in the game with club chairman Richard McMinn firing home his fifth goal of the season after left back Willie Frazer carried the ball the length of the pitch cruising past three Annagh players before teeing up McMinn for the shot which caught Kyle Nelson flat footed.
Banbridge Rangers looked assured at the back with Porter and Frazer looking solid either side of captain Darren Clarke and Chris Chambers who was a cut above in the first half with his reading of the game and his distribution.
The hero of the last round, Colin Cousins, almost created a third for Rangers before the half taking on three men before playing in former Annagh player Chris Loney for a one on one with the keeper but Loney’s first touch allowed Annagh to close the angles well.
The second half started as the first ended with Banbridge Rangers in control all over the pitch and were causing problems to the Annagh backline with some neat football. Ten minutes into the half Rangers were awarded a free kick inside the Annagh half which was supplied to the head of Jason Gourley from a pinpoint cross by Chambers with Gourley making no mistake with his header to give Rangers a 3-1 lead.
Banbridge Rangers kept it tight at the back with Trevor Tate missing very little in the holding role in front of the back four and marshalling the excellent Kevin Keegan who looked the only player capable of threatening Rangers dominance in the game.
Several half chances passed for the home side as the game moved into the final quarter of an hour and saw Rangers first switch of the night with Bradley Hughes replacing Chris Loney on the left hand side of midfield. With eight minutes left in the game Annagh United were handed an lifeline when Tate bundled over Uprichard in the box and Kevin Keegan stepped up to slot home past Blevins to make it 3-2.
Geordie McCallister sent on 16 year old Stephen Copes in the lone striker role who had plenty of running in closing down the opposition as Rangers braced themselves for the Annagh onslaught.
The bout of pressure never came and in fact Banbridge Rangers stayed in control holding onto the ball extremely well and making Annagh chase the game. With a couple of minutes to full time Rangers scored a deserved fourth and it was all down to Bradley Hughes who went past McBirney with ease before rifling across goal with Annaghs retreating defender only able to help the ball into his own net.
When the final whistle went there was a great sense of pride amongst the Rangers faithful who saw their team pull off a fantastic result to progress into the WKD Intermediate Cup Quarter Finals with an away tie awaiting the outcome of this Saturday’s match between Ballyclare Comrades and Carrick Rangers.
Banbridge Rangers keep flying the flag for Mid Ulster football and the Banbridge District in the competition and will relish the next challenge but this week is a home fixture at Cheney Park in the league against Broomhill.