Annagh Utd travelled to Crystal Park to face a rejuvanated Banbridge Town side on Saturding knowing that this was a “must win” in their quest for promotion.
Despite the pressure of the occasion, the Portadown men acquited themselves admirably with the task in hand and achieved their goal comfortably thanks to a man-of-the-match display from veteren striker Shea Campbell who helped himself to a hat-trick during a 4-0 victory.
This was a good all round display from the visitors who proved much too strong for understrength Town who were dealt a blow when midfielder Stevie Jones injured himself in the warm up and had to withdraw from the line-up.
Already missing Captain Mattie McCartan and Ryan Evans, Banbridge never got to grips with the game and were fighting a losing battle from as early as the fourth minute when Campbell ghosted behind the defence to guide a McCann cross past the helpless Stephen Croft to give Annagh a dream start.
A strong wind blowing into the Social Club end aided the visitors considerably and driven on by Craig, Rea and McCann (who gave young Michael Ferguson a torrid afternoon), they piled the pressure on.
However, Town are well known for their battling qualities and they soon settled into proceedings due to the promptings of Ryan Gourley and Mark Teggart.
David Gray was also working hard but was having to come too deep to get the ball with the result that he couldn’t pose his usual threat in front of goal.
Gourley did show a good turn of pace down the right but overall the physically stronger Annagh defence marshalled by Craig and Acheson bossed their territory. On 32 minutes, when it looked like Town might force an equaliser, Annagh took a 2-0 lead when Brown ran onto a flicked header and found Campbell in acres of space and the centre forward made no mistake.
Banbridge showed plenty of heart and a 25 yard piledriver from Teggart was held at the second attempt by Fox.
Stephen Croft made a great stop to prevent a third Campbell goal on 36 minutes but could do little on the stroke of half-time when Park did well to control and fire across goal for Campbell to pounce on the keeper’s punch to bury the ball in the net for his hat-trick.
This was the death knell for Town although they did come out fighting in the second half. Fox stretched to push a goalbound Teggart volley awa on 59 minutes.
At the other end Gardiner had an effort charged down and cleared while Town sub Jordan Hayes saw his header sail wide on 63 minutes.
Four minutes later, it was 4-0 when Gardiner was on hand to score after a Shea Campbell drive came back off the upright.
To their credit, Banbridge did not give up and after a Gourley effort was wide on 83 minutes, David Gray forced a near post save from Fox
Just before the final whistle, Chris Coleman was agonisingly close to finishing a cross but at the end it was a fully deserved win for Annagh who received the congratulations of everyone at Banbridge Town FC on gaining promotion to Championship One.
Mention must be made of Mark Teggart who leaves on Tuesday (April 28th) to go to Australia where he will be based until Christmas at least.
He carries with him all the best wishes of everyone at The Town, who will hope to have him back in the New Year.
Next Saturday is the final day of the season with Banbridge travelling to Portstewart (Kick-Off 1pm.)
TOWN: Croft, Wilson, Ferguson, Greene, Waddell, Coleman, Gourley, Buchanan, Teggart, Downey, Gray. Subs: Orr, Hayes (Ferguson 45), Watson, Stoddard (Downey 78), McGrath (Teggart 75).
ANNAGH UTD: Fox, Bell, Mulgrew, Acheson, Craig, Rea, McCann, Park, Campbell, Brown, Gardiner. Subs: Nesbitt (Gardiner 68), Smith (Campbell 80), Riddle (Mulgrew 71), Harpur, Smith.
Referee: Alaistair Burns, Portadown.