BANBRIDGE Town qualified for the quarter-finals of the Coca-Cola Intermediate Cup, a trophy they last won back in 1986, with a late but deserved victory over a dogged and determined Dundonald side.
Town had entered the tie with much trepidation as they had to field without no less than nine of their first team squad due to suspensions and ineligibilities. This, added to the fact that both Chris Kingsberry and Neil Alderdice were forced to start the game carrying calf and hamstring injuries, did not bode well for the home sides chances.
However they were determined to carry on their good Cup run and for the first 21 minutes of this game they pushed the Amateur League side right back with neat attacking football and were so much in command that ‘keeper Stephen Croft didnt get a touch during this period.
The busy Timmy Grant saw an early shot saved well by Dundonald’s Causby and again forced the latter to save smartly a minute later after charging down a clearance from a defender.
Stephen O’Neill, who was celebrating his 20th birthday, got an unwelcome present soon after with an eye injury after an accidental head clash - fortunately he was able to continue to play his part in the win.
Conor Downey, who had opened very brightly down the right, crossed after 14 minutes for Chris Kingsberry to bring a great point blank save from the impressive Causby. Three minutes later Downey fired a great drive which was held by Causby.
Seconds later a Paul Walsh screamer rolled across the bar and went wide. The Dundonald goalmouth led a charmed existence at this stage.
The breakthrough came for Banbridge after 28 minutes and was a goal worth waiting on. Central defender Stephen Greene rose majestically and hung in the air to meet a Downey corner before planting a strong header past Causby to put Town 1-0 ahead. It was no more than Town deserved at this stage with Chris Kingsberry creating a lot of space in midfield, ably assisted by Chris McGrath and the quietly effective Willie Herron.
The latter closed down Dundonald’s Chambers as he raced in on goal forcing the visiting forward to shoot hastily wide after 33 minutes.
Ex-H & W. Welders star Harvey was prominent for Dundonald and his promptings were bringing the visitors more into the game. However it was a shock for Town in the 38th minute when Dundonald equalised against the run of play with a goal of some quality. Thompson and Campbell combined to send Tumelty through and he scored with a delicate chip from 22 yards that sailed over a helpless Croft.
The Dundonald man almost got a second on the half-time whistle but this time Croft was equal to his shot.
Town came out for the second half with all guns blazing and in the 46th minute Grant and O’Neill combined well for the latter to race through and shoot inches wide.
Chris Kingsberry failed to appear for the second half, his calf injury having worsened, to be replaced by 16 year old Ryan Gourley who made his debut after signing from Distillery a few weeks ago.
It now developed into a tempestous cup-tie with the battling visitors well in the game as Banbridge seemed to lose their way temporarily. They did however work their way back to the relief of the home support with Timmy Grant working his socks off with little reward at times.
Dundonald were proving stubborn opponents and Calder fired a 30 yard volley too close for comfort after 70 minutes.
At the other end Grant and Herron had efforts charged down on the goal line. Aaron Cobb replaced the ailing Neil Alderdice after 75 minutes and put in a couple of telling tackles soon after coming on.
With time running out manager Brian Adair made what turned out to be quite a significant change when he made his final substitution after 85 minutes - Stephen O’Neill was replaced by none other than Brian himself and two minutes after his introduction Town were 2-1 up.
A melee in the Dundonald goalmouth saw an Adair assist find Grant lurking 18 inches from the goalline and the latter doesn’t miss from that range!
Chris McGrath almost increased their lead soon after with a header from a Paul Walsh centre. Dundonald fought to the end and the last chance of the game fell to Thompson whose scissors kick was well held by Croft.
A great win for depleted Town and they will now wait on the quarter-final draw with baited breath.
TEAMS: Banbridge Town: Stephen Croft, Stephen Jones, Paul Walsh, Neil Alderdice, Stephen Greene, Chris McGrath, Conor Downey, Willie Herron, Timmy Grant, Chris Kingsberry, Stephen O’Neill. Subs: Ryan Gourley (for Kingsberry 45 mins.), Brian Adair (for O’Neill 85 mins.), Aaron Cobb (for Alderdice 75 mins.)
Dundonald: Alan Causby, Ross Calder, Conal Wolsey, Ross McCaughan, Simon Graham, Nathan Campbell, Andrew Thompson, Scott Harvey, George Chambers, Johnny Tumelty, Ross Ordley. Subs: Lee Fisher, Colin Manley, Aaron Graham, Martin Winters.
Referee: Wesley Campbell, Augher.