Seven goals, extra-time, a sending off, hectic finish and controversial refereeing decisions would normally add up to a game of great excitement.
But this was certainly not the case at Crystal Park on Saturday last when unbeaten Mid-Ulster Intermediate “A” side Tandragee Rovers reached the Bob Radcliffe Quarter Finals after 115 minutes of football.
It was only in the last minute of normal time (when Town grabbed a late equaliser) plus extra-time when we had any real excitement in what was up to then a pretty dour cup tie.
Referees have a difficult task trying to please everyone and on Saturday the official did not endear himself to the home fans when he appeared to harshly send off Town’s young right back Michael Ferguson on 25 minutes and astonishingly dissallowed Neil Watson’s last gasp goal which would have taken the game to penalties claiming that he had blown the final whistle seconds earlier as the ball was on route to the outstretched leg of Watson!
Although the fighting 10 men from Banbridge came oh so close to pulling the game out of the fire Tandragee deserved their victory after an impressive display.
They showed their intent as early as the 5th minute when Bicker picked up a stray Stephen Jones pass and fed A.J. Gallagher and the ex. Town player tested ‘keeper McConville from the edge of the box.
In a Town counter attack Rovers ‘keeper Marshall spilled a Conor Downey cross but was relieved to see a defender clear.
Seconds later a left wing free from Nathan Baird saw Ally Wilson turn on the proverbial sixpence and shoot inches past the post with Marshall struggling.
However just when it seemed Town were turning the screw Tandragee struck with a great move and Gallagher found a gap in the middle of the home defence and fired his side ahead with a fine strike.
Banbridge’s efforts to regain control suffered a hammerblow after 25 minutes when Michael Ferguson was sensationally shown a straight red for foul language to the referee (something he vehemently denied).
Banbridge upped the ante and Ally Wilson had an effort charged down before James McConville saved bravely at the feet of Tandragee’s McCammon after 32 minutes.
Two minutes later the ten-men were on level terms when Conor Downey lobbed over the head of Marshall after great combination work from Nathan Baird and Ally Wilson.
However it wasn’t long before Tandragee regained the lead and after 34 minutes the impressive Jamie Rooney skinned Shannon Drainey before firing past the helpless McConville into the far corner.
Young Gareth Orr replaced Ryan Gourley in a technical switch at half-time and seemed to assume a central role up front - Striker Orr (now thats a name Town fans of a different generation will remember!)
Mark Teggart was having a good game for Banbridge and caused problems with probing runs although he did not always get the support he deserved.
On 71 minutes a Johnny Black 25 yard free rattled Town’s crossbar before being cleared.
Ten man Town pushed forward in search of the equaliser and after 85 minutes Mark Teggart’s effort was saved by the feet of Marshall with Gareth Orr blasting high and wide from the rebound.
Then when all seemed lost and into injury time Teggart connected with an Ally Wilson cross to volley past Marshall to equalise at 2 - 2.
The impetus was now with Town and Ally Wilson had an effort cleared off the line in the early seconds of extra time before sending Mark Teggart through to slot home and Banbridge were amazingly 3 -2 in front!
It was now end to end stuff and Tandragee showed what they are made off with a Johnny Black shot past McConville a minute before the break to level matters again.
The toll was beginning to show on the gallant ten men of Banbridge now and after 112 minutes another neat Tandragee move saw Corbett fire a 15 yard drive out of the diving McConville’s reach to send the visitors into a 4 - 3 lead.
Town however never give up without a fight and Ally Wilson somehow missed his header under the bar from an excellent Neil Watson cross with time running out.
It should be pointed out that Banbridge were down to nine men at this stage as Teggart had hobbled off with a thigh strain and had no fit substitute to replace him.
Then came Neil Watson’s last gasp equaliser following a corner which was controversially ruled out by the Referee leaving Town no chance of a penalty shoot-out!
TEAMS: Banbridge Town: James McConville, Michael Ferguson, Nathan Baird, Stephen Greene, Shannon Drainey, Stephen Jones, Mark Teggart, James Wilson, Alaister Wilson,Conor Downey, Ryan Gourley. Subs: David Gray (for Baird 70 mins.), Gareth Orr (for Gourley 45 mins.), Neil Watson (for Downey 78 mins.), Ryan Evans.
Tandragee Rovers: Clifford Marshall, Gareth Dobbs, Colin Bingham, Gary Whiteside, Jamie Rooney, Philip Pedlow, Mark Bicker, A.J. Gallagher, Lee Wells, Cecil Corbett, Dean McCammon. Subs: Jonathan Black (for McCammon 70 mins.), Simon McClean (for Gallagher 60 mins.), Graham Steenson. Referee: Gerard Murray, Dungannon.
Next Saturday its back to league action when Town travel to Limavady Utd. (Kick-Off 3.00 pm) .
Martin Buchanan and Glen Waddle should return to the squad but Mark Teggart could be an injury doubt while Michael Ferguson will serve an automatic one match suspension.