Irish Premier League Champions Cliftonville, travelling with a young squad, regained The Bob Larmour Memorial Cup at Crystal Park on Saturday last with a 2-1 victory over the home side.
However, Town Boss Ryan Watson will have been encouraged with his side’s promising display and could quite easily have retained the Cup had Conor Downey’s 61st minute chip not come back off the underside of the bar with the visiting keeper well beaten.
It will certainly be viewed as a good game for the home side to build on their fitness levels and there were impressive displays from new signings Ryan Gregg, Ally Wilson and Ryan Gourley.
The returning Stephen Croft was very sound between the posts too. With another new signing Ryan Evans and injury free Adam Pedlow almost ready to return, Banbridge supporters will look to the new season with a cautious degree of optimism.
Chris McGrath is making good progress after his long awaited operation but it will be early 2015 before he will be in a position to display his talents.
In this the ninth successive year of the Bob Larmour Memorial Cup, the home side were fortunate not to concede a 15th minute penalty when Glen Waddell appeared to foul a Cliftonville forward.
Both sides played smart football with Ally Wilson leading Town’s frontline in a manner that augers well.
However, it was his strike partner Conor Downey who looked most impressive.
He curled a free-kick from wide on the left after 18 minutes but the Reds keeper plucked it from under the bar. The evergreen Damian McParland and midfield companion Steve Jones were showing well and Stephen Croft threw his body in the firing line as Cliftonville’s number 10 honed in on goal after 22 minutes.
The visitors struck to go 1-0 ahead after 29 minutes with the home defence clearly expecting an offside decision, which never came.
The free flowing football continued in the second half in what was a very competitive game and Downey had a good header held by the keeper after 50 minutes.
Ten minutes later and the game seemed over when Cliftonville’s number nine rifled past Croft from the edge of the box to make it 2-0 to the visitors.
However, Banbridge were right back in the thick of things after 67 minutes when great opportunism from Conor Downey robbed the visiting keeper as he played the ball out leaving the simple of tap-ins to bring Town back into the game at 2-1.
Had Downey’s effort six minutes earlier, which came back off the underside of the bar), gone in things would have been really interesting at this stage.
James Wilson, who had replaced Ryan Gourley, combined well with Downey to force a fine save from the Reds’ keeper. Town Manager Ryan Watson will have taken quite a few positives out of the game and with the news that last season’s ‘keeper Stephen “Sprite” Cairnduff has resigned, things are on an upward curve.
Town’s 2014/2015 Season commences on Saturday August 9 with a visit to Crystal Park by Portstewart (kick-off 3pm). The following Tuesday (August 12) Newington YC will be visitors to Crystal Park in the First Round Wasps Solution League Cup.
TEAM: Stephen Croft, Ryan Gregg, Nathan Baird, Glen Waddell, Stephen Greene, Damian McParland, Ryan Gourley, Steve Jones, Ally Wilson, Conor Downey, Mark Teggart. Subs: Martin Buchanan James Wilson, David Gray.