Banbridge Town AFC and Rathfriland Rangers Reserves played out a tense 2-2 draw at Crystal Park on Saturday in the Mid Ulster Reserve Championship.
Rathfriland were sluggish in the first half and struggled to get going against a sharp Banbridge team who were winning all the personal battles in the game’s opening exchanges.
Banbridge went in front after a free-kick was conceded on the edge of the penalty area and from the resulting free, the Rathfriland defence failed to clear their lines and the ball broke to a Banbridge player who fired past the helpless Maguire in the Rathfriland goal to put Banbridge 1-0 in front.
Rathfriland continued in the same vein in the remainder of the first half and more poor defending cost Rathfriland later in the half. After Maguire made a succession of good saves, the Rathfriland defence failed to react to the loose ball allowing the Banbridge forward to double the home side’s lead.
Rathfriland, feeling humbled to be just 2-0 down at half time such was the nature of their first half performance, came out the second half with an increased intensity and played much better, taking the game to their Banbridge opponents. Rathfriland got back into the game when a good free-kick from Tumilty on the left side was headed in by Kyle Heslip at the back post to bring Rathfriland back into the game at 2-1.
Momentum was now swinging Rathfriland’s way and the away side could sense more goals coming in their favour. About mid-way through the second half, Rathfriland drew level when Heslip scored with an effort that totally deceived the stranded Banbridge keeper, looping over his head, into the back of the net to make scores 2-2.
In hindsight, a draw was probably a fair result on the balance of play although Rathfriland will see this as an opportunity missed to put some pressure on those at the top of the table. However, the strength of character should not be underestimated and it could prove to be a crucial point come the end of the season.