It was a case of so close but yet so far for Banbridge Rangers Reserves in the Wilmor Johnston Cup Final on Friday evening as they were edged out 2-1 by Newry City Reserves in extra-time.
A Rangers goal in the very first minute at Holm Park looked to be decisive until City AFC Reserves scored an equaliser in the third minute of second-half stoppage time. At the end of extra time, the whistle for a penalty shootout was due to be blown when Newry City AFC scored a second goal to be crowned champions of the prestigious Reserve Cup.
The large vociferous travelling support from Banbridge saw their side take a surprising lead early in the game. Winger Ryan Weir was upended on the edge of the box from kick off and Andy Mallen took advantage of Newry placing only two men in the wall to drill low into the bottom corner.
The first half was a subdued affair with the two defences coming out on top as neither side recorded a shot on target with Stefan Martin firing over Newry’s only chance on 20 minutes and a shot from Andy Mallen four minutes before the break sailed over.
The chances were falling to Banbridge Rangers with Mallen fizzing a left footed shot wide minutes before Matty McKnight danced his way through the Newry backline before his toe poked shot was superbly saved by the City keeper.
On 67 minutes, Newry City recorded their first shot on target when good play down the right saw their winger hit the byline and his pull-back saw Andy McLarty strike towards the near post but keeper Jonny Parkes made a superb reaction save.
Two Rangers substitutes combined in the 77th minute to create a chance from a corner as Jason Gourley flicked onto Jordan McCracken at the back post but he sliced his shot wide.
In the 89th minute, McCracken had a chance to seal it when he was released through on goal from the left flank but the Newry keeper came to the rescue to bravely block the shot after being presented the opportunity to close down.
In the second minute of stoppage time, a free kick was drilled low to the front post where keeper Parkes sliced for a corner. The inswinging set piece was allowed to drop on the edge of the six yard box and Shane Lundy blasted it in to force extra time.
This was the first goal that the Reserves defence had conceeded in over 500 minutes of open play and surely in the cruelest of fashions.
Extra-time was only four minutes in when a Mallen corner was headed over the keeper by full back Matthew McCrum but the Newry defender on the post had taken a step inside and somehow cleared off the line with a reaction header.
As the match headed into the second minute of extra-time stoppage time, a pass to Mark Lowry saw him get a foot to the ball between keeper and defender and the bounce took it into the net to end the tie.
RANGERS RESERVES: Parkes, Adamson, Sergeant, Nelson (c), McCrum, Weir (Wilson ‘84), McKnight, Thompson, Copes ( Gourley ‘58), Chambers (McCracken 74), Mallen.
Subs: Woods, McAllister, McCracken, Wilson, Gourley.