Banbridge Town were denied their second league win of the season by a last minute PSNI strike on saturday.
Town had been 3-1 ahead thanks to a Conor Downey double and a Ryan Moffatt strike but a late rally from their hosts secured a heart-breaking 3-3 draw.
Going into the match Town were 12 points and nine places behind their opponents but confidence was high after three games undefeated and no goals conceded.
PSNI were at full strength but Town had to make two changes in centre midfield; Martin Buchanan and the fit again Stephen Jones came in for Kevin Anderson and Chris McGrath, who were unavailable, while Ryan Gourley came back in for Neil Barr.
Heavy rain overnight and on Saturday morning made the immaculate Newforge pitch heavy underfoot. Before kick-off both teams observed a minutes slience for Rememberance Sunday.
Town started brightly playing some neat passing football and forcing a series of corners. Ryan Gourley’s movement on a heavy playing surface was causing the home side’s defence problems and Ryan Moffatt and Stephen Jones had efforts on goal as Town couldn’t convert their early chances.
PSNI were also causing Town problems, particularly from set-pieces. On 13 minutes, Town were lucky not to go behind when a corner from the left was headed onto the bar by Adamczyk but the ball was scrambled clear.
PSNI were lifted by this near miss and soon after an Anderson cross was met by Mark McCullagh who powered his header in to give the hosts the lead.
Town didn’t wilt and pushed forward looking for the equaliser. On 25 minutes, a Stuart Thompson high cross into the six yard box was met by Conor Downey, who headed an equaliser into the top corner.
Town were lifted by the goal and closed down PSNI, forcing them into mistakes. They were rewarded five minutes later when a misplaced pass was intercepted by Stephen Jones in midfield and his first time through ball was picked up by Conor Downey on the left wing just inside the PSNI half.He drove forward leaving his marker in his wake and calmly slotted home from 18 yards for his and Town’s second.
Just before the break, things got even better for Town as they made it 3-1. Moffatt picked up the ball on the left and his goalbound shot was pushed out by keeper Harrison. With the in-rushing Downey preparing to strike for his hat-trick, it was Moffatt who got a toe to the ball to score Town’s third.
As expected though, PSNI started the second half strongly and, through Mark Anderson’s free-kick, hit the post on 50 minutes.
Town almost got a fourth on 65 minutes when James Wilson played a ball out of defence to Kingsberry in midfield; he fed Jones who passed to Downey and he drove forward at the PSNI defence. Wilson had continued his run and a back heel from Downey allowed him a clear run through but his shot across the goal was inches wide of the far post.
Twoo minutes later Town had another chance when Buchanan’s ball into space was picked up by Downey who tried to chip the advancing keeper but the stopper manged to get his fingertips to it.
This sparked the PSNI manager into a triple substitution and five minutes later they were back in the game when a speculative long range shot by McDermott took a big deflection giving keeper Tuda Murphy no chance.
With time running out PSNI threw everything at the Town goal and right on 90 minutes a low hard cross from the right wasn’t cut out by Town’s defence. Although Murphy made a good save he couldn’t keep hold of the ball and there were two PSNI players free inside the box with Ryan Berry heading home to get PSNI out of jail and deny Town the three points their performance deserved.
The point saw Town move up one place in the league to 11th, a position which does not reflect recent performances. Town remain unbeaten away from home and Ryan Watson has his team playing with an organisation and belief that will surely see them win more games in remainder of this season.
TOWN: Murphy, Thompson, Greene, Waddell, Wilson, Moffat, Buchanan, Jones, Kinsgberry (Barr 75), Gourley, Downey. Subs: Croft, McParland, Pedlow.