Conor Downey was back on the score-sheet for Banbridge Town on Saturday in their 1-1 draw at Queen’s University.
The result leaves Town in sixth spot in the table, five points clear of the bottom five with just three games left to play. The teams below them have games in hand though, so survival is far from assured yet.
The Students had beaten Town by a single goal in the first meeting of the season. Looking to avenge that defeat, Town manager Ryan Watson made two changes as leading goal-scorer Conor Downey replaced Gary Boyle upfront with captain Ryan Moffatt replaced Adam Pedlow on the left wing.
Both teams started the game at a high tempo and it was end to end attacks as each team hit the post in the first five minutes.
Moffatt and Downey linked well on the left and the striker’s shot across goal beat the home defence but it was marginally in-front of the in-rushing Ryan Gourley.
On just eight minutes though, Town were ahead. Moffatt was the provider, his cross picking out Downey in the Queen’s area to beat his marker before hitting a low shot across goal and in off the far post.
Town’s midfield of McGrath, McCartan and King were on top, playing the ball to the wings where Moffatt and Thompson in particular were finding space, Thompson floating a number of dangerous crosses in the box.
On 15 minutes, Queen’s almost drew level as a corner from the right was headed goalwards by McDowell but Stephen Greene was on the goal-line to clear the danger.
It was a fast paced, end to end, game; on the half hour Downey headed another Thompson cross just over before Gourley saw a shot saved.
At the other end, Queen’s were level on 36 minutes. Keenan got to the by-line on the left and his cross flew over the box to the right wing where Byrne was free. He had time to put in a ball which was met by James Lavery whose header from 12 yards gave Tuda Murphy no chance.
Town were unsettled by the goal and it could have been worse with five minutes of the half remaining when a Queen’s free kick from the right was headed wide by the unmarked McManus at the back post. Town finished the half strongly, winning a series of throw-ins on the right. Gourley crossed to King who laid the ball off for Thompson to unleash a fierce shot from outside the area which Brown at full stretch tipped over for a corner.
Town manager Watson made a tactical change at half time, Chris Kingsberry replacing James Wilson whilst the home side made a double substitution, with Budden and Clearly coming on.
Town were soon on the attack and almost went ahead on 55 minutes.
Downey picked up a throw in on the left and drove towards the byline before cutting the ball back into the area where Gourley was in space but his first time low shot was saved by the outstretched foot of Queen’s keeper Declan Brown.
Town lost midfielder Chris McGrath following a heavy challenge which went unpunished, Pedlow coming on for the final 30 minutes, shortly joined by Neil Barr as Town chased a winner.
Queen’s finished the game strongly, putting Town under sustained pressure but with everyone tracking back, few clear-cut chances were created.
With 15 minutes left, the home side almost got what would have been an underserved winner when Stuart’s left foot shot came back off the far post with Murphy beaten. The game ended even with the draw probably a fair result.