Banbridge Town 0
YOU need a bit of luck on your side if you are going to turn over your ‘bogey side and Town found once again that Lady Luck was certainly not with them on Saturday last at Crystal Park when Ards were the visitors.
Town started briskly and in their first attack Evans delivered a dangerous cross into the Ards box which was cleared under pressure.
The lively McArdle had the ball in the visitors net after seven minutes and was unlucky to have it ruled out for offside.
Town were certainly dominating the early exchanges with new signing Hawthorne prominent - delivering defence splitting passes deep into the Ards box and with McArdle and Grant returning after injury they looked a more potent force than recently.
Slowly but surely Ards forced their way into the game through the best efforts of McKee and Arthurs, an ex-Crusaders starlet.
However it was Town who should have taken the lead after 13 minutes when McArdle did some great work down the left before setting up Malone but on this occasion Town’s leading goalscorer blasted wide when well placed.
The same duo combined in the 21st minute to cause confusion in the Ards rearguard but the corner they forced was cleared once again.
Ards’ midfield ace McKee, just back in the team following suspension, raced the full length off the pitch to release ex-Loughgall star Kingsberry but his shot was cleared by Town defender Stewart as he tracked the visiting forward.
Town’s relief was shortlivid however and McKee put Ards ahead after 31 minutes when he headed home unchallenged at the far post from an inviting left wing cross with the Town’s rearguard AWOL.
The home side were rocked and it took a fine Buchanan save from a 25 yard drive from Sam Devine four minutes later to prevent them goint further behind.
Former Rangers player Paul McKnight replaced the injured Arthurs after 40 minutes and Malone tested Ards ‘keeper Kerr with a long drive after 42 minutes.
Ards finished the half strongly but Town’s Mark Stewart and ever reliable Ricky Copeland were proving pillars of strength at the back.
An early Malone corner flashed across goal but no Town forward could get the vital touch.
A sign that the old bogey was to strike again came after 55 minutes when a well taken free kick from specialist Dale Malone came back off the base of a post with the visiting ‘keeper stranded.
Although Town had the bulk of the play Ards were proving very dangeous on the counter attack and their number nine, Doyle, raced at the home defence and only another great Buchanan stop prevented the Peninsula men from increasing their lead after 68 minutes.
Town’s ill luck continued with Hawthorne going off with an injury to be replaced by Declan Allister three minutes later.
This was followed by a double substiitution, Mattie McCartan replacing Damian McParland and Stefan Campbell replacing Timmy Grant, after 77 minutes.
Ards frontman Doyle was also making quite an impact now and he was only inches away with an effort getting good support from substitute McIlhagga.
It was the turn of Town substitute Allister to shave the post with a fine effort after 81 minutes - this all came about following a good surging run and pass from Dale Malone.
McKnight was close for the visitors soon after. Ards have ‘keeper Kerr to thank for this hard earned win when he produced a breathtaking save in the 88th minute from Stefan ‘Soup’ Campbell who sent a thunderbolt that had equaliser written all over it - it was a superlative stop but broke Town hearts.
It was to be Town’s last chance and so the ‘Ards Bogey’ remains!
Town cannot be faulted for effort but sooner rather than later they must secure league points as their league position is now precarious.
They will be hoping this can start with Saturdays visit to Limavady United (kick-off 3pm).
It will be remembered it was the latter who ended Town’s Intermediate Cup hopes at the beginning of February at Crystal Park so it will be a big task to secure points at Limavady. However that is the challenge that faces an anxious Town side.
On Saturday March 5 Town are at Crystal Park to face Larne in the Ladbrokes.com Championship 1 (kick-off 3pm).
Teams: Banbridge Town: G. Buchanan G Hall P Evans R Copeland M Stewart D McParland D Malone D Hawthorne T Grant S McArdle J Brady Subs: M Teggart M McCartan N King D Allister S Campbell
Ards: A. Kerr R. Young C.Pike G. Spence D. Devine S. Devine A. McKee C. Kingsberry R. Arthurs S. Doyle M. Picking Subs: P. McKnight J. McIlhagga D. Lockhart P. Kee D. Nixon
Referee: P. McGrath, Newtownabbey