A double from Stuart King along with a debut goal for Jamie Smith secured a third league win on the trot for Banbridge Town.
After Ryan Watson’s side fell behind to hosts Portstewart, former Glenavon man King overturned the deficit before on-loan forward Smith came off the bench to net with his very first touch for the club and put the icing on a sweet-tasting 3-1 victory.
Having lost only one league game from their last nine, Town travelled to the North Coast with great confidence although at the back of their minds they were only too aware that they have always found it extremely difficult against The Seahawks on their home patch.
In fact, Saturday’s win was Town’s first league victory in Portstewart since a 1-0 success back in 2004.
Town showed their early intent when Pixie Moffatt swept over a first minute cross which Neil Barr glanced just wide off the post. Moffatt was lively and attacked down the left once again on six minutes to send in another inviting centre which was mis-kicked by Barr when well placed.
The homesters were well in the game and after nine minutes, Dysart switched play to find the dangerous Doherty whose snap shot went inches past Tuda Murphy’s post.
Chris Kingsberry and the influential Stuart King combined well and it took a fine last ditch tackle from Portstewart’s Forgrave to prevent a certain goal after 22 minutes. One minute later Moffatt sent a free kick past the post as Town began to exert control of the game.
A nasty clash of heads between Barr and Portstewart’s Bradley resulted in both players needing treatment but thankfully both resumed after a short period.
On 35 minutes, Forgrave raced through a static Town rearguard but his tame effort was well saved by goalkeeper Murphy.
Soon after, the in-form Ryan Gourley jinked past McClements and whipped in a great cross but the inrushing Chris Kingsberry’s snatched effort went inches wide.
Portstewart’s best effort came just before the half-time whistle when a superbly hit free kick from Neill (ex-Coleraine) looked bound for the top corner until Town keeper Tuda Murphy went full length to touch the ball over the bar - what an acquisition Murphy has been for Town this season. He is worth an awful lot of league points, which could prove invaluable to Banbridge before the end of this vital season.
Town began the second half brightly and evenhad the ball in the net on 58. Last week’s hero Chris McGrath scored after a fine pass from Stuart Thompson only to see his effort ruled out by the linesman for offside.
Town could have been forgiven for becoming frustrated as good play failed to lead to goals, even moreso after the fell 1-0 behind when Portstewart were awarded a 60th minute penalty for an alleged handball against Glen Waddell. Neill stepped up to score and put Banbridge’s resolve to the test.
Town were not found wanting and with the dynamic midfield of King, Anderson, McGrath and Kingsberry pushing them forward at every opportunity, they strove for the equaliser.
Barr turned Bradley on 63 minutes and his fierce drive was inches over with the keeper beaten. A Moffatt shot was then deflected for a corner which was the prelude to a succession of Town corners.
And their pressure finally paid off after 67 minutes. King was fouled on the edge of the box and he stepped up himself to curve superbly round the wall and into the net past a bemused Maddison.
King saw a piledriver graze the upright on 72 minutes as he looked to haul Town ahead.
And he did so on 78. Moffatt sent livewire Ryan Gourley racing through to cut inside and find the unmarked King. Unsurprisingly, the Town’s MOTM gave Maddison no chance with a good finish.
The only damper on a terrific afternoon for Town was the sight of Neil Barr being stretchered off after 86 minutes after a heavy clash.
But his replacement was transfer deadline signing Jamie Smith (from Annagh Utd) and the Portadown man had a dream debut when he scored with his first touch of the ball after fine approach work from Kevin Anderson and Mattie McCartan to secure three valuable points.
Town’s recent run is certainly an amazing turnaround after a miserable start to the season. Tere are a lot of points still to play for but a firm base for success has been put in place.
Great credit must go to Manager Ryan Watson for his shrewd January signings Stuart King, Jamie Smith and Gary Boyle with King and Smith responsible for the three goals.
PORTSTEWART: Maddison, McClements, Mearns, Bradley, Neill, Forgrave, Dysart, Millar, Moore, Hanson, Doherty. Subs: Stewart (for Dysart 75 mins) Healy (for Moore 83 mins.) Gault, Crowe.
TOWN: Murphy, Thompson, Waddell, Greene, Moffatt, Kingsberry, Anderson, McGrath, Gourley, King, Barr. Subs: Croft, Wilson, Smith (for Barr 86 mins.), Boyle, McCartan (for Kingsberry 80 mins.) Referee: Declan Hasson.