Banbridge Rangers recent turnaround continued on Saturday when they defeated second placed Valley Rangers 3-1 at Cheney Park.
It’s now four games unbeaten for the ‘Gers and have edged back into the top half of the table with seven points in the last three games.
Valley Rangers have proven that they are no pushovers in Intermediate A since promotion with their hard working ethic and front three who can cause problems for every team in the division.
On the other side Banbridge Rangers know they can compete with anyone in the league when they have a full strength squad, which was the case on Saturday for the first time this season.
Valley opened the scoring in the 9th minute when Andy McMath’s free kick in a wide position went all the way to the back post for defender Simon Ardis to tap in.
The away side then went down to ten men in the 20th minute after a ball into Banbridge striker Colin Cunningham saw him turn the last defender Gary McKee and when Cunningham was wrestled to the ground the referee was left with little option but to produce a straight red for denying a goalscoring opportunity.
Valley regrouped and worked hard for the remainder of the half. The only chance for the home side came after a momentary slip by Valley’s centre half but Mark Wiltons shot was fired over from close range.
In the second half Valley started brightly with a lot of closing down to make up for the personnel deficit and saw Ricky Graham go close with a breakaway shot.
The introduction of Jonny O’Neill on the right hand side of defence allowed a greater threat going forward for Banbridge Rangers with Colin Cousins pushing into the forward line.
The change produced instant dividends as Cousins got clear runs on goal twice within the space of several minutes but saw one shot saved by the keeper and the next diverted for a corner with a well timed recovery tackle.
From the corner the ‘Gers played a low ball to the front post which was flicked on by Gregg and then Wilton before Chris Chambers smashed in the equaliser from the near the penalty spot.
Cousins’ pace was causing issues for the Valley backline and in the 66th minute he managed to go clear once again but this time he managed to get the ball across the line after slicing the ball around Teggarty in the Valley nets with the outside of his boot to put Banbridge 2-1 up.
Valley found themselves with an uphill task with fifteen minutes to go when Simon Ardis picked up two yellow cards in the space of minutes for dissent.
Substitute Andy Mallen went close to adding a third when he nutmegged a Valley midfielder before seeing his delicate chip just go inches wide of the mark.
In the final minute of the game Banbridge Rangers got their decisive third goal thanks to Scott Ward’s closing down on the right wing and when his cross was headed up in the air Andy Mallen showed superb technique to side foot his volley into the top corner.
In stoppage time Jeff Brady went clear on goal hoping to add a fourth goal but was tripped by Andy McMath, the referee produced a yellow card which frees up McMath to play in the Marshall Cup this week.
Next up for Banbridge Rangers is a trip to AFC Craigavon on Easter Saturday with Crewe United the following week.
BRFC Team: William Maxwell, Kyle Sergeant (Jonny O’Neill ‘53), Christopher Chambers, Ryan Gregg, William Frazer, Colin Cousins (c), Mark Wilton (Scott Ward ‘78), Stephen Teggart, Jeff Brady, Neil Clydesdale & Colin Cunningham (Andy Mallen ‘67). Unused subs: Jonny Porter & James McCann.