Ryan Gourley was the hero at Crystal Park on Saturday as he fired Banbridge Town to a 2-0 win over Dundela.
It was a victory that lifted Town to ninth place in Championship Two, clear of the automatic relegation spots and even beyond the potential play-off place.
After a poor start to their league campaign, Town have been steadily climbing up the table and are now unbeaten in six games with five clean sheets an indication of how well the defence have been in the revival of the team’s fortunes.
In last week’s LEADER, manager Ryan Watson had challenged his midfield and defence to contribute goals and the message certainly got through to Ryan Gourley whose superbly taken strikes, one in each half, were the difference in a tight game played in very challenging conditions.
Manager Watson was able to pick from a strong squad with only Stephen Jones unavailable due to a hamstring strain. The starting eleven was unchanged for the third straight game.
The visitors, though, were forced into a change before kick-off with Stephen Gourley replacing Edgar who pulled up in the warm-up.
Dundela’s team included former Glentoran player Matty Burrows who is continuing his comeback from a serious knee injury. Despite the recent heavy rainfall, the pitch was in its usual perfect condition thanks to the excellent work of the council groundstaff.
Town started brightly, enjoying most of the possession and pinning the visitors into the own half. Central midfielders Chris McGrath and Kevin Anderson were bossing midfield with Ryan ‘Pixie’ Moffatt and Chris Kingsberry providing the service for Downey and Gourley up front.
Both had efforts on goal but Dundela’s defence held firm. Dundela almost caught Town on the break after 10 minutes but Waddell and Thompson combined well to clear the danger; the latter turning defence into attack with a great ball forward to Gourley whose cross just evaded the in-rushing Downey.
Town continued to press forward but couldn’t convert any of their chances. Dundela gradually settled and won two free kicks in quick succession inside the Town half but Greene and Thompson headed clear.
Conor Downey was being closely marked by Mark McClelland but on 36 minutes he beat his man and unleashed a curling dipping shot from the left which the Dundela keeper Taylor tipped over. With five minutes to half-time, Town upped the tempo again. A Thompson free-kick was met at the back post by Greene but his header was punched clear, the ball falling to Kevin Anderson whose shot from the edge of the box was saved.
Just when it looked like the half would end goalless, Town broke down the left through Kingsberry whose reverse pass was collected by Ryan Gourley. He ran into the box and one on one with the keeper, made no mistake with a cool finish, shooting across the keeper into the far corner. It was no more than Town deserved.
The second half started in gloomy conditions which quickly turned to heavy rain and hail, despite the conditions both teams, and supporters stuck to their task admirably.
Dundela were searching for the equaliser but Town’s defence is hard to break down these days and with McGrath and Anderson domninant in midfield, the visitors were restricted to shooting from distance.
As the sky brightened, so did Town’s football with some great quick passing causing Dundela problems. On 60 minutes, Gourley scored his and Town’s second.
Moffatt played a pass to Kingsberry on the right and the pacy winger cut inside before feeding the ball to Gourley who ran into the box from the left and fired low into the far corner.
West replaced Bickerstaff as Dundela tried to get back in the game but they rarely threatened the Town goal. Town didn’t try to sit on their lead and maintained their intensity and workrate with Downey, Moffatt, Gourley and Kingsberry prominent in Town’s attacks.
With 10 minutes left, Adam Pedlow replaced Kingsberry and he was immediately involved, his pace causing Dundela’s defence a lot of problems and leading to the first yellow card as West was booked for a late tackle.
Buchanan replaced Moffatt with five minutes left as Town closed out the game for a well deserved win and a vital three points which moved them up two places in the table.
Town would like to than the RED STAR BAR, Scarva Street, for sponsoring the match.
TOWN: Murphy, Wilson, Waddell, Greene, Thompson, Kingsberry (Pedlow 80), Anderson, McGrath, Moffatt (Buchanan 85), Gourley, Downey.
Unused Subs: Croft, Barr, Ferguson.