Late Rafferty strike denies Town a point

BANBRIDGE Town welcomed back Ryan Moffatt and Mattie McCartan to their starting line-up against Steel and Sons Cup winners Bangor.

Ronnie Haughey was delighted to have them both back as talisman Chris Kingsberry and the industrious Stephen Jones were missing due to one match suspensions.

The visitors were first out of the blocks and Murray had a left foot drive held by Town ‘keeper Kieran Maguire in the early seconds.

But Town went into a shock lead after five minutes with a well taken goal; right back Stuart Thompson found the marauding Moffatt with brilliant cross field ball and the latter slotted his effort past Cairnduff in the Seasiders’ goal.

However their lead lasted only five minutes with Bangor’s Middleton on hand to blast past Maguire after an intricate passing movement involving Garth Scates and the highly rated Ben Browne.

It was a sensational three goals in 11 minutes when livewire Moffatt crashed home his second goal when he met another great Thompson cross to restore Town’s lead. It was terrific end to end attacking football with the pace of Town’s forward quartet of Moffatt, McCartan, Downey and McArdle causing untold problems for the Bangor backline.

The Seasiders were definitely playing their part in a very entertaining game and Maguire had to race off his line to save at Middleton’s feet after 16 minutes. Soon after Simon Robb did well to clear a dangerous Hylands cross as McLaughlin honed in ready to pounce. On 21 minutes a Mattie McCartan run down the right saw the Town’s skippers cross flash across goal with no-one able to put the finishing touch to it.

Downey forced a fruitless corner and the latter’s snap shot skimmed the bar as Town upped the tempo. McArdle was just wide with a shot after Bangor ‘keeper Cairnduff had pushed out a Downey cross after 26 minutes.

The pressure had to pay off and it was 3-1 to the homesters after 32 minutes when McArdle dispossessed visiting defender Beattie following a McCartan cross and side footed past Cairnduff.

Town were having their best display of the season and could have scored again minutes later through that man Moffatt after a flowing movement involving McCartan, McGrath and McArdle. Glenholmes fired over as the visitors tried to get back into the game. The only black spot in an amazing first half for Town was the loss through injury of Conor Downey - his presence was sorely missed later in the game.

New signing Daniel Johnston took a knock just before half-time and it seemed to curtail his movement in the second half. But Bangor manager Frankie Wilson is a super tactition and at half-time, realising he had to change things or face a drubbing, he introduced another attacking player in new signing Darren Stuart from Cliftonville and withdrew defender Andy Long.

Town had a chance to go into an unassailable lead minutes into the half when Robb found Thompson unmarked inside the Bangor area but the big No. 2 shot wide when he should have done better. The dangerous Glenholmes went close for the Seasiders who were now dictating the pace and putting Town under pressure.

However a Town counter attack saw Simon Robb finish into the side netting after Ryan Moffatt had sent him hurtling down the left wing. Bangor were back in the game after 59 minutes when Murray scored with a lovely chip over Maguire from the edge of the box after good work from Scates.

The Seasiders wend all out for an equaliser and Beattie went close after 65 minutes after Maguire had scuffed a cross. The latter did well to hold a Stuart piledriver from 25 yards in the 68th minute.

Town looked like they would hold on until Bangor were awarded a penalty for an alleged push by Town’s Thompson which the experienced Scates converted to level matters at 3-3 after 79 minutes.

This amazing game took another turn after 86 minutes when Bangor’s hero Scates turned villain when he pulled Stevie McArdle back in the box and the referee awarded a penalty to Town. However ‘keeper Cairnduff came to his sides rescue with a great save from Moffatt’s spot kick to thwart ‘Pixie’ off his hat-trick and Town off a likely three points.

Things got worse for the unfortunate homesters when in the 94th minute Bangor sub. Rafferty popped up in Town’s area to slot past a dejected Maguire to secure the win for a clearly delighted Bangor outfit.

It was a brutal ending to the game for Town with their loyal supporters left shaking their heads and bemoaning their ill-luck. Their display definitely deserved something from this game.

Next Saturday, February 11, Town hope to have a friendly fixture against Dundalk at Crystal Park, kick-off 3pm. This game has yet to be confirmed.  

Banbridge Town: Kieran Maguire, Stuart Thompson, Simon Robb, Stephen Greene, Daniel Johnston, Chris McGrath, Ryan Moffatt, Barry Tumilty, Conor Downey, Stephen McArdle, Matthew McCartan. Subs: Keith Fannin (for Downey 36mins.), James Wilson, Stephen Ferris.  

Bangor: Paul Cairnduff, Andy Long, Brian Hylands, Gareth Beattie, Dean Youle, Garth Scates, Gareth McLaughlin, Ben Browne, Chris Middleton, Ryan Murray, Conor Glenholmes.  Subs: Glen Bowers(for Browne 55mins.), Darren Stuart (for Long 45mins.), Gary Rafferty (for Middleton 83mins.), Mark Whitford, Lee Windrum (GK). 

Referee: Cecil Floyd (Belfast)