Having secured a good point in their last home game against league leaders Lurgan Celtic, Banbridge Town were brought back to earth with a narrow 1-0 defeat to promotion seekers Limavady United at Crystal Park on Saturday afternoon.
The Roesiders are hoping for a quick return to Championship One and took another step towards that aim with this three points, thanks to a goal from the outstanding Cathair Friel.
Town approached the game with some trepidation having Ryan Evans, Ally Wilson and Glen Waddell all missing through suspension and big John Murphy still unavailable.
It was a promising start from Banbridge although the pacy Owens was commanding a lot of attention from Town’s defenders.
Lee Harkin and Cathair Friel were beginning to make their presence felt in the Limavady engine room and the latter was unlucky to see a shot cleared off the line by the retreating Mattie McCartan on 15 minutes. Soon after, he hit an overhead kick which sailed inches past Town’s upright.
The visitors were pressurising Town and ex Coleraine striker Shane Jennings tested Croft when he connected with a cross on 30 minutes.
Three minutes later Limavady were awarded a free on the edge of Town’s box but Paul Owens fired over the crossbar. Banbridge were playing well at the back and competing in midfield but were lacking any penetration up front with Conor Downey having one of his quietest days for a long time.
The experienced Roesiders upped the pace as the second half commenced and after 51 minutes a long drive from Friel cannoned off a Banbridge upright.
Stevie Jones, Mattie McCartan and Chris Coleman fought hard to make things happen for the homesters but it was Morrison who forced a fine save from Croft and almost broke the deadlock in Limavady’s favour after 56 minutes.
Ryan Watson then introduced Ryan Gourley and the Town sub stole in behind the visitors’ defence after 66 minutes but shot narrowly over when well placed. Prior to this, Banbridge had rarely been seen as an attacking force.
It was becoming more and more obvious that a single goal would settle this game and indeed after 69 minutes that became a reality!.
It was that man Cathair Friel, the difference between the two sides and without question head and shoulders above anyone on the pitch, who picked the ball up some 40 yards from goal and raced through before slipping his effort under the advancing Stephen Croft to put Limavady ahead.
Adam Dennison came on for Town as the homesters went all out for an equaliser. On 81 minutes, a Conor Downey free 30 yards out was spilled by keeper Wells but cleared before any Banbridge forward could pull the trigger.
Mark Teggart was wide after 86 minutes as Town piled on the pressure although it took a good save from the feet of Stephen Croft to prevent Limavady sub. McMullan increasing their lead.
All in all, it was a brave effort from an understrength Town but a deserving three points for promotion seeking Limavady.
BANBRIDGE TOWN: Stephen Croft, Chris Coleman, James Wilson, Stephen Greene, Martin Buchanan, Stephen Jones, Mark Teggart, Mattie McCartan, Duncan Stoddard, Conor Downey, David Gray. Subs: Adam Dennison (Stoddard 74), Ryan Gourley (Gray 58), Michael Ferguson, James McConville.
LIMAVADY UTD: Paul Wells, Michael Walsh, Bryan McClelland, Ryan Mullan, Hugh Carlin, Gary McFadden, Paul Owens, Lee Harkin, Shane Jennings, Cathair Friel, Blain Morrison. Subs: Gareth Brown (Friel 90+3), Andrew Ferris (Morrison 67), Daibhibd McIvor, Corey McMullan (Jennings 78 ), Craig Moore.
Referee: Jamie Robinson, Portadown.