Unbeaten Championship Two table toppers Moyola Park were given a scare at Crystal Park on Saturday as Banbridge Town staged a late rally but came up just short in a 4-3 defeat.
Missing several first team choices through suspensions and injuries, Town threw their misfortune to one side early on and pushed Moyola back with a series of strong attacking moves.
After 12 minutes, a long throw from Nathan Baird was flicked goalwards by the head of the towering Neil Watson and as Town supporters were about to celebrate, Moyola keeper Farniock bent backwards and pushed it over the bar. This terrific stop inspired the league leaders and two minutes later in their first real attack, Dowie raced through to give his side a 1-0 lead.
Banbridge responded immediately and the hard-working Ally Wilson fired into the side netting. Such was Town’s play that they were unfortunate to be behind but there was nothing fortunate about Moyola’s second on 19 minutes. After a sweeping move from deep within their own defence, Eugene Gallagher spun away from a couple of defenders after collecting a Jason Paul header before placing his shot out of James McConville’s reach.
Things looked bleak for the homesters as Moyola were playing like a team at the top of the table and with great confidence in front of goal.
However, the one thing this Banbridge side has is a great fighting spirit and a never-say-die attitude. On 24 minutes they grabbed a lifeline with a goal of the highest order when Conor Downey bent a 25 yard free way out on the left wing out of Farniock’s reach to reduce the arrears.
Town’s skillful stand-in skipper Mark Teggart together with Steve Jones and Mattie McCartan worked ferociously in the middle of the park. It was a very entertaining game and the impressive Gallagher was unlucky with a fierce header from a corner which flew over Town’s bar after 32 minutes.
An audacious chip from Wilson e wasn’t far away after 34 minutes as the home side pressed to get on level terms. However, they found themselves 3-1 down after 42 minutes when Dowie grabbed his second goal after latching on to a miskicked clearance by Glen Waddell to steer his effort into the far corner of James McConville’s net.
This was a blow for Town but they fought back again and should have scored just before half-time. Wilson brought a great save from Farniock and when the rebound fell to the feet of Downey he seemed certain to score before a great goal-line clearance saved the visitors.
Straight from the restart Neil Watson had a lob just wide of the post and Mattie McCartan shot over after good work from Wilson and Jones.
Banbridge were unlucky again not to score after 69 minutes when a good Conor Downey cross was headed down and past the upright by Watson with the keeper stranded.
On 75 minutes, the game seemed over when Gallagher scored his second with a crisp finish inside the box after fine combination work with Paul.
Town were not prepared to lie down though and after substitute Duncan Stoddard had been introduced, he was immediately involved in a move which ended with Mark Teggart smashing a shot high into the net from 15 yards to reduce the arrears. Teggart fired over after 82 minutes as Banbridge threw everything bar the kitchen sink at the league leaders.
It was exciting stuff especially when Town made it 4-3 on 87 minutes as Conor Downey grabbed his second of the match after chasing a ball into the box and finishing into the corner.
Ultimately, it was too little to late for Town, who will be disappointed not to have got something out of the game.
They had a lot of promising displays especially from young Gareth Orr making his debut at right back plus Mark Teggart, Conor Downey and Ally Wilson. James Wilson is another man who doesn’t always make the limelight but is Mr. Consistent in whatever role he is asked to perform. Let’s not forget Mattie McCartan who has just returned from America and is playing like he never left.
Next Saturday, Banbridge Town will be at Crystal Park to entertain Tobermore Utd (kick-Off 3pm). This game was due to be played at Tobermore but has been re-arranged to Crystal Park at Tobermore’s request.
TOWN: McConville, Orr, Baird, Wilson, Waddell, Jones, Teggart, McCartan, Wilson, Watson, Downey.
Subs: Gourley, Stoddard (Watson 74), Loy.
MOYOLA PARK: Farniock, McAllister, Lucas, McQuillan, Waddell, Stewart, Gallagher, Dowie, Deane, Paul.
Subs: Curtis, Paul (Waddell 68), Larkin (Stewart 64), Barrow.
Referee: Neil Robinson, Portadown.