Pre-season is over and all the cobwebs have been brushed aside.
At least that was the hope of Ryan Watson and his backroom staff as they prepared to face Portstewart at Crystal Park on Saturday in the 2014/15 league-opener.
In practice, it didn’t quite go to plan with a 2-0 defeat. Town’s task was not made any easier with the unavailability of the recently married Ally Wilson plus the injured Ryan Evans and Adam Pedlow.
Add to this the fact that their leading goal-scorer for the past couple of seasons Steven O’Neill is at university in America and the immediate assumption is that Banbridge are desperately short up front in the goal-scoring category. Truth be told, this became more and more obvious as the game wore on.
Town keeper Stephen Croft was quickly off his line as early as the fourth minute to clear a dangerous situation and minutes later defender Stephen Greene was on hand to clear a cross from experienced Portstewart midfielder Lee Forgrave.
Town’s first real effort came from a Conor Downey shot as he cut in from the right but Joel Madison in the Seahawks goals proved more than a match for it.
The enigmatic Downey could have given the home side a 12th minute lead but was denied by a combination of the post and good goalkeeping by Madison.
This was the start of Town’s only purple patch in the game and Michael Ferguson should have done much better soon after when he robbed Portstewart’s Ramsey on the by-line but shot wide when a pass across an empty goal to a fellow forward would surely have reaped dividends.
Just before the half-time whistle, Damian McParland sent Mark Teggart through on goal but Madison pushed his effort out for a fruitless corner.
The evergreen McParland curled a left foot shot just wide from a Teggart corner in the 50th minute as the game threatened to be one of those goalless affairs. However, Portstewart were having none of that and when they forced a corner two minutes later that man Stewart found himself unmarked at the near post and duly obliged by proding the ball past Croft to shock careless Town.
To give Banbridge some credit, they began to show some fight after this and Ferguson blasted wide on 59 minutes. Four minutes later a James Wilson cross was met by a downward header from Conor Downey but Madison held at the base of the post. The Seahawks did have a lucky escape in the 73rd minute when a Downey cross into the box caused mayhem and a defender sent a header crashing on to his own crossbar in a desperate attempt to clear.
Ryan Watson made a double substitution bringing Ryan Gourley and Ryan Gregg into the fray and the new formation did appear to add impetus to the Banbridge play. A fine Downey-McParland move ended with Mark Teggart blazing over after 80 minutes and Nathan Baird was wide with a 20 yard free kick threee minutes later as Town piled on the pressure.
However, it was all to no avail when after 86 minutes Portstewart sub. McClements was on hand to stroke a loose ball home after another corner had not been cleared by the home rearguard.
All in all, it was a very disappointing opening to Town’s season.
TOWN: Croft, Wilson, Baird, Greene, Waddell, Jones, Teggart, Buchanan, Downey, McParland, Ferguson. Subs: Gregg (Ferguson 73), Drainey (McParland 90), Gourley (Jones 73), Martin, McGrath (GK).
PORTSTEWART: Madison, Ramsey, Campbell, Pedan, Millar, Murray, Donnen, Forgrave, Turner, Stewart, . Subs: David McClements (Stewart 70), Sam Boylan (Donnen 81), Ryan McAllister, Gary Quinn, Darren McGowan.
Referee: Neil Robinson, Portadown.
All Banbridge Town Members are requested to attend a meeting in the clubrooms next Tuesday night (19 August at 7.30pm), when they will hear an update on all current developments.