Banbridge Town must feel that the football gods are smiling somewhere other than on Crystal Park at the moment.
They tasted defeat for the second consecutive Premier Intermediate League fixture on Saturday as Donegal Celtic edged a 3-2 win.
Town had gone down to ten men on the half-hour mark as Danny Devlin was sent off. Celtic then raced into a two goal lead. Town battled back superbly to level with goals from Ryan Moffatt and Jack McCreanor but Celtic struck on 89 minutes to steal the three points.
There was one enforced change from Tuesday night’s match at Warrenpoint as Matthew McCartan’s knee injury had not recovered and manager Stuart King filled the midfield spot.
The first clear cut opportunity fell to the visitors when, in the 26th minute, a defensive mistake allowed Celtic’s Declan Monaghan a shot on goal only to be thwarted by a good save from home keeper Stephen Cairnduff.
The equilibrium of the match was turned on its head on the half hour. Monaghan stole a yard on Town’s young defender Danny Devlin and as the young defender caught up with the forward, their legs tangled on the edge of Town’s penalty area.
Referee, Mr Mahon immediately showed Devlin a red card. This decision enraged Town’s players and supporters but worse was to come when, after the furore of the sending off, the resultant free kick was lashed home by Celtic’s Kevin Hughes.
Banbridge responded quickly and Downey shot wide following the restart, but three minutes later Town went further behind when Monaghan’s shot somehow evaded Cairnduff to double the visitors’ lead.
Urged on by their supporters, Town attacked immediately. Ryan Gourley found space in the box and his cross shot hit the post. The rebound fell to Moffatt but he shot wide.
Central defender Jordan Hayes was replaced and James Wilson took over in the centre of the defence at half-time with McCreanor reverting to full back. Niall Lavery came into midfield and the switch paid immediate dividends when, following Lavery’s clever pass, Clydesdale was fouled in the box and Moffatt’s penalty reduced the arrears.
Despite being numerically inferior, Town took the game to their opponents, Lavery and King at the heart of everything.
In the 61st minute, Town equalised. Lavery’s exquisite pass sent Gourley galloping down the right and his clever play forced a corner. The subsequent kick caused panic in Celtic’s defence and McCreanor popped up on the far post to force the ball home.
With the game wide open, Celtic missed two golden opportunities within a minute as they sent close range headers into the arms of Cairnduff.
Just when it seemed that Town would hold on for a precious point, Celtic scored the winner. In the 89th minute, the ball broke to Hughes on the right and he crashed the ball home from the edge of the box. The disappointment was etched on Town faces as they left the field to a huge ovation from the home support.
TOWN: Cairnduff; Wilson; Thompson; Hayes; Lavery (Lavery 45); Gourley; King (McParland 80); McCreanor; Moffatt; Downey; Clydesdale (Pedlow 90)
Subs: Gregg; Taggart.