THE Alan Wilson Cup will reside in Banbridge for a second successive season after Banbridge Rangers defeated Ballymacash in this year’s final on Saturday morning at Crystal Park. The win also secured a league and cup double for Banbridge Rangers who have grown in strength throughout the season and finished in superb form.
Manager Dan Thornton has proven to be the difference for Rangers guiding the team into Mid Ulster’s Top flight and can take pride at securing the clubs first double winning season since their inception.
It’s fair to say that Ballymacash Rangers had a point to prove to everyone, including themselves, after being outplayed in much of the original match which was abandoned midway through the second half with Banbridge Rangers in control at 2-0.
The Lisburn side came out of the blocks quickest on Saturday and saw their first chance go agonizingly wide after breaking down the right hand side with Jonny Porter doing enough to put his opposing player off.
With Gareth Fulton and Trevor Tate missing through injuries sustained in the previous Cup Final the reshuffle included moving Colin Cousins into a lone striker role with Jason Gourley playing wide right and Richard McMinn playing in the hole behind the striker. Despite having much of the possession Rangers failed to create an clear openings and were caught twice on the break midway through the half with Ballymacash unable to convert from good areas thanks to the safe hands of Ivon Blevins.
Ballymacash had the wind in their sails and started to put Banbridge Rangers under pressure towards the end of the half with several efforts going wide of the upright. In stoppage time however the Lisburn outfit were dealt a significant blow to their cause when Colin Cousins drilled a low cross towards the run of Gourley but the Ballymacash defender managed to skew the ball and curl it into his own net past the sprawling keeper.
This was a perfect time for Banbridge Rangers to score who knew that they were fortunate to go into the break a goal to the good. In the second half Ballymacash seemed to have lost the impetus that drove them forward so much in the opening period with Banbridge Rangers looking to be patient and try and kill the game off with a second goal. Left winger Willie Frazer was sent through by Clydesdale on the hour mark and with the ball only yards from the goal he was caught by the covering defender who managed to divert for a corner.
Colin Cousins then had a good chance smothered when he broke free off the last man on seventy minutes but as the game wore on it looked likely to end in a 1-0 win unless Ballymacash could start and exude some pressure again but came up a resilient Banbridge back four who kept it simple and were rarely threatened in the closing minutes.
The game finished 1-0 and was by no means a classic but it was a deserved result for Banbridge Rangers over the course of both ties. Captain Chris Chambers picked up Rangers second trophy of the day to rapturous applause from a large home support who had made their presence felt by getting behind the team vocally.
Banbridge Rangers would like to thank all of those who contributed to the donation box at the gate on Saturday with the takings being passed onto the injured striker Gareth Fulton who broke his leg in the original game. The match officials also deserve credit for their performances and for donating their match fees to the injured player fund. Banbridge Rangers have one league game to finish off their season which will be played away to Richhill on Wednesday evening with some club legends hopefully able to make an appearance in a game that ultimately has no bearing on either side.