Banbridge Town had to come from behind to maintain their unbeaten run against Newington YC on Saturday.
Fresh off the back of their 5-1 derby win over Dollingstown, Ryan Watson had warned his side not to become complacent.
But when Sean McAuley opened the scoring on 39, Town had to rally. They did that as Matty McCartan equalised on 53 but the hosts couldn’t muster a win despite the visitors ending the game with ten men.
Newington themselves came into the game after a victory, having beaten Nortel (who had ousted Town) in the Intermediate Cup the week before.
Town kept the same line-up as the one that had seen off Dollingstown as Glen Waddell and Jamie Smith returned to the bench.
It was obvious from the outset that Newington were set out to disrupt Town’s flowing football with strong physical challenges that required a much stronger Referee that was in evidence on Saturday.
The visitors were certainly first out of the blocks and Chris McGrath did well to block a surging Sean McAuley run. Town’s man of the moment Ryan Gourley then began to trouble Newington but couldn’t provide the opening.
It was the stronger North Belfast men who took over and it took a fine one handed stop from Tuda Murphy to prevent a piledriver from Brannigan ahead after a good lay off from Pearse McAuley.
The latter was to play a big part as proceedings took a nasty turn after 25 minutes. Prior to this, Stuart King saw a well struck free-kick bounce off keeper Smyth after a foul on Matty McCartan.
The McAuley incident resulted in Town’s Kevin Anderson having to leave the field with concussion after what Town felt was an elbow in the jaw - Glen Waddell was the replacement. Referee Maguire choose to book Town’s keeper Murphy for protesting about the challenge.
O’Neill fired over the bar seconds later as Newington upped the ante. The game at this stage had sadly degenerated into a physical encounter which was a poor spectacle for supporters.
Scollay cut in from the left before shooting wide on 35 and four minutes later Newington took the lead when a Sean McAuley free on the right was met by the head of big defender Daniel Whyte who gave Murphy no chance from ten yards.
Town’s response was immediate and Stephen Greene almost equalised with a header from a King corner.
Banbridge started the second half with all guns blazing and it was ecstasy for the home fans on 53 minutes, when Pixie Moffatt collected a clearance out of the visiting defence and crossed into the box where Mattie McCartan crashed a downward header past Smyth for a great equaliser.
The game opened up temporarily and provided entertainment at both ends. Scollay pulled a good effort into the side netting after catching James Wilson out of position while at the other end Barr produced a good save out of Smyth with Gourley just failing to get on the rebound.
With 15 minutes remaining, the game disintegrated into a farce with a series of over zealous challenges which went unpunished.
Dempsey saw red for Newington and Banbridge pressed for the winner but despite nine minutes of injury time, the nearest they came was from a Stuart King free and a Chris McGrath 30 yard volley that whizzed wide.
All in all, it proved another useful point for Town as they extend their unbeaten league run to 12 but a big disappointment was the severe injury to Kevin Anderson which will keep him out of action for a minimum of three weeks.
Everyone connected to Town will wish the big genial Kevin a speedy recovery.
Next Saturday (February 27th) Town travel to Tobermore United (kick-Off 3pm) hoping to avenge the early season 4 - 3 defeat at Crystal Park.
TOWN: Murphy, Wilson, Greene, McCartan, Anderson, Gourley, McGrath, Barr, King, Kingsberry, Moffatt. Subs: Waddell (Anderson 25), McParland, Boyle (Kingsberry 84), Smith (Barr 62), Croft (GK).
NEWINGTON: Smyth, Dempsey, Reid, Whyte, Adams, Brannigan, P McAuley, O’Neill, McFall, S McAuley, Scollay.
Subs: Gary Rafferty (P McAuley 70), Kyle Reid, Sean Paul Johnston (S. McAuley 80), Finlay.
Referee: Damian Maguire, Enniskillen.