BANBRIDGE Town returned to league action against Ballymena based side Wakehurst who were seeking their fifth successive victory in a very productive spell for their club.
Town entered the game minus injured duo Paul Walsh (shoulder) and Chris McGrath (rib). Glen Waddell and Kevin Henry were the replacements called up by manager Brian Adair.
Town were soon out of the traps and when Chris Kingsberry spotted ‘keeper Maybin off his line after two minutes his lobbed effort wasn’t far away.
The little midfielder was buzzing throughout the first half and Wakehurst were struggling to contain him as he continually led their rearguard a merry dance. Stuart Thompson, raiding down the right sent over a dangerous cross but retreating full back
Culbertson intercepted before intended target Kingsberry could finish. Along with Kingsberry, Barry Tumilty and Kevin Henry were providing the strength in midfield and were the catalyst for most of Town’s probings.
It was all Banbridge at this stage with Morley-Hillen in the home goals seeing little action! But chance after chance went abegging for Town, something they were going to rue later. Adam Pedlow raced down the left and flashed an inviting cross which eluded everyone in the box after 15 minutes.
A move out of defence instigated by the impressive Neil Alderdice was carried forward by Henry and Grant and ended with Mattie McCartan forcing a save from Maybin seconds later. On 26 minutes it seemed that Chris Kingsberry had given Town the lead only to see his shot come back off the underside of the bar with Mattie McCartan firing the rebound across goal when it seemed easier to score.
Wakehurst were well organised at the back with Colville and Laughlin to the fore in defending their goal. In a rare foray into the Town’s box Crawford had his effort charged down by Kevin Henry in the 28th minute. On the half hour Timmy Grant made a scintillating run past a few defenders and found the evasive Kingsberry whose deft finish struck the post with the ‘keeper beaten.
After 33 minutes Pedlow raced through to find Grant in front of goal but the number nine’s shot was blocked on the line. Town lost Stuart Thompson to injury two minutes later with Willie Herron replacing the big right back.
It was a blow to Town who were to miss the marauding Thompson on the right flank. Then with only seconds remaining in the first half disaster struck Banbridge when an innocent looking 20 yard free kick from Crawford was mishandled by Morley-Hillen and crept over the line much to the depair of the Town ‘keeper. Unbelievably Town went in 1-0 down after a half they had totally dominated.
Encouraged by that fortuitous goal Wakehurst were a different team in the second half and began brightly with Lemon firing over from a 25 yard free kick.
Wakehurst lost the influencial Aaron Lemon to a serious injury in the 59th minute and everyone at Banbridge Town Football Club will wish the Wakehurst forward a speedy recovery from what appeared to be a broken arm. It is always sad when someone receives a serious injury playing the sport they love and the thoughts of all at Banbridge will be with the Wakehurst player.
Town worked their way back into the game and a bullet like Kingsberry cross was a whisker away from the head of Adam Pedlow after 63 minutes. Conor Downey had a header saved by Maybin after 77 minutes - indeed Downey had shown much needed urgency to the home attack since he entered the fray.
Banbridge put the pressure on again in search of an equaliser and Maybin was alert to a Timmy Grant shot on the turn two minutes later. Kingsberry should have scored on 81 minutes when he raced clear of the defence only to slip as he homed in on the ‘keeper.
Morley-Hillen kept Town in the game one minute later with a great save from Gregg who looked certain to add to his side’s lead. Glen Waddle had an effort turned away for a corner and as the clock ticked away Conor Downey beat the advancing Maybin to a long ball and was so unlucky to see his shot go past the wrong side of the upright.
All of Town’s efforts were in vain and the hard working Wakehurst men held on to claim their fifth successive victory.
Banbridge Town: Nathan Morley-Hillen, Stuart Thompson, Glen Waddle, Neil Alderdice, Neil King, Barry Tumilty, Mattie McCartan, Kevin Henry, Timmy Grant, Chris Kingsberry, Adam Pedlow. Subs: Willie Herron (for Thompson 35 mins.), Conor Downey (for McCartan 70 mins.), Steven O’Neill (for Pedlow 80 mins.), Ryan Gourley.
Wakehurst: Marc Maybin, Philip Alexander, Ricky Culbertson, Douglas Stevenson, Robert Colville, Andrew Laughlin, Jordan Lemon, Mark Crawford, Conor Gregg, Jason Paul, Aaron Lemon. Subs: Lee McGaughren (for J. Lemon 65 mins.), Ryan Gregg (for A. Lemon 59 mins.), Stephen Mellon, Stuart McKinney, John Alexander.
Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan).