Football can be a very cruel game at times and for this young Banbridge Town team, Saturday’s game at The Dub, home of high flying Queens University, was one such occasion.
They entered the Arena as outsiders against this year’s Irish Cup semi-finalists and prime Championship Two league contenders but put in a sterling performance that deserved a lot better than an eventual 2-1 defeat, Johnny Kernoghan’s goal ending up just a consolation.
Once again, however, it was their finishing that was their Achilles heel, plus a second-half penalty miss that did little to help their cause of providing an upset at the home of the title-chasing side.
A strong spring sun shone down onto a bumpy surface as Town were first to go on the offensive and experienced midfield ace Damian McParland should have put his side ahead as early as the second minute when he rose unmarked to a Johnny Kernoghan corner only to head well over. What a start that could have been for the visitors.
Only three minutes later, Banbridge were left to rue that miss when Queens took a lead that they would hold until the final whistle. Home winger Michael Allison outpaced Town full-back James Wilson and his cross fell into the path of James Lavery. who has reached his 100th goal mark the previous week, and the prolific striker shot past the helpless Stephen Cairnduff in the Banbridge goal.
Queens assumed control after this and in the 20th minute, they raced into a 2 -0 lead. Mark Prenter’s corner eluded everyone except James Ferrin who stabbed it home from close range. It was certainly a cheap goal for Town to concede and another that didn’t please manager Ryan Watson.
It was then that Banbridge Town’s renowned spirit came to the fore and after that, they gave their boss much to be proud of. A fine move involving McParland, Teggart and McCartan saw the latter’s fierce volley pushed wide for a corner by the diving Declan Brown in the Queen’s goal as Bann began to hit back.
Banbridge were not to be denied and reduced the arrears after 35 minutes when the persistent Johnny Kernoghan charged down an attempted Danny Culbert clearance and lobbed over the head of the stranded Brown. It was game on again.
If Queens had dominated possession in the first half, it was definitely Town who did so in the second period and on the hour-mark, they had the perfect opportunity to level the game when they were awarded a penalty-kick folllowing a push on the typically hard working Steven O’Neill.
Up stepped Johnny Kernoghan to try and double his tally for the day. He has been in good form but, on this occasion, his well struck spot-kick came back the base off the post and rebounded to safety for the home side.
Despite this disappointment, Banbridge piled the pressure even heavier on the home side and pushed Queens further and further back.
Ryan Watson went for broke by introducing three strikers from the bench in Conor Downey, Gary Boyle and Neil Watson. Downey went close to levelling the scores after 78 minutes with a drive that scraped the upright with home keeper Brown struggling.
Town continued to create a number of chances but alas could not convert and so the game ended, in the words of a Queens official, “as a somewhat fortuitous victory” for the Students. It keeps them well in the running for a strong league challenge but was a result that caused much frustration for Banbridge, who really had put in a strong performance.
Town put in a strong performance, particularly from their man-of-the-match Stephen Jones, Glen Waddell and the ever-reliable Stephen Greene.
BANBRIDGE TOWN: Stephen Cairnduff, Glen Waddell, James Wilson, Stephen Greene, Martin Buchanan, Damian McParland, Mark Teggart, Mattie McCartan, Steven O’Neill, Stephen Jones, Johnny Kernoghan. Subs: Conor Downey (Waddell), Gary Boyle (O’Neill), Neil Watson (McCartan), Nathan Baird.