HOCKEY: Bell sends Bann top and ends Garvey’s unbeaten run

Lisnagarvey's  Sean Murray and Banbridge's Peter Brown in action on Sunday. Pic: Presseye.
Lisnagarvey's Sean Murray and Banbridge's Peter Brown in action on Sunday. Pic: Presseye.
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Banbridge goal-scoring hero Matthew Bell says his side ‘can’t underestimate’ the step they took this weekend.

The international netted from the spot in the third quarter at Comber Road to overtake opponents and old rivals Lisnagarvey with a 1-0 win and shoot into top spot in the EYHL for the first time.

As if that wasn’t enough, they also put an end to Lisnagarvey’s 21 match unbeaten league run.

“We can’t underestimate the obstacle that we have overcome in getting the three points there,” he said.

“We were beaten there 4-0 last season and we’ve had a lot of hosings up there in recent seasons so the lads all got themselves up for this one.”

It was an even encounter, with few chances at either end. Bann twice threatened from short-corners while Eugene Magee also tested Garvey keeper James Milliken from open play.

Daniel Nelson went closest for the hosts but couldn’t prevent Bann going one point clear of Cork C of I and Monkstown, with Garvey now two points further back alongside Three Rock Rovers in a packed table.

“We all think we belong (at the top),” said Bell. “We pride ourselves in being one of the best clubs in Ireland and this will bring an extra bit of buzz to training this week.

“We know that we can’t take it for granted though. We’ve a few more gears to get to and more big performances to put in.”

There’s certainly a feel-good factor around Banbridge after their recent progression to the Knock Out 16 stage of the European Hockey League.

“Since the EHL, we’ve drawn 3-3 with Monkstown, who are a real bogey team for us,” continued Bell. “Then we won at Pembroke - the first time we’ve won in Dublin since the first game of last season.

“We didn’t concede any short corners that day and then it was the same against Garvey.

“They have a big short corner threat so it was great to avoid that. We defended very well and, to be fair, Garvey did too. It was a game of few chances. Gareth Lennox only had one or two saves to make.

“The lads all put a lot of hard work in and I was just there to finish it all off from the spot. Someone has to do it.”

Garvey captain Jonny Bell, meanwhile, demanded a reaction from his side after their first league defeat since October last year.

“We’re disappointed to lose that run but it was always going to happen at some stage,” he said. “As long as I’ve played for Lisnagarvey, we’ve always expected a reaction after a disappointing result and we’ll be looking for that against Glenanne in two week’s time.

“It’s definitely advantage Banbridge. They’re three points ahead of us and they’re top of the table but there will be plenty more points dropped before the season is over.”