BANBRIDGE Rangers kept their impressive form on track last Saturday when they became the first team to take all three points this season from current Mid Ulster Champions Camlough Rovers.
The win takes Rangers clear into fourth place in the league with the foxus now turning to Saturday’s home game against Fivemiletown and a chance to move up into the top three behind Dollingstown who then come to Cheney Park the following Saturday.
In the first 15 minutes there was nothing between the two teams who have a rivalry steming back to their title contending days in Intermediate B.
In the previous nine games between the sides Rangers have the better record with six wins and a draw and tend to be a bogey team for the Newry based side.
By the half hour mark it was clear the Banbridge Rangers were looking the more offensively minded team with the majority of territory in the Camlough Half. On 31 minutes a corner kick from Ryan Weir was headed out to the edge of the area where Gareth Fulton controlled on the chest before unleashing a volley towards the top corner. Camlough’s keeper Goodwill was equal to the test but could only parry the ball out and Ryan Gregg was on hand to blast into the opposite corner to give the Gers the lead.
Mark Wilton and Coly Cousins followed with shots from around the edge of the area as Rangers looked to continue their momentum.
Camlough Rovers were keen to play counter attacking football and just before half time they grabbed a controversial equaliser on a quick break. A ball over the top off left back Peter Dean found the Camlough right winger in a tight offside call but his curling cross bounced up on to the arm of Camlough striker Monaghan and diverted past Blevins to make it 1-1.
Banbridge Rangers stuck to their task and continued to mount wave after wave off attack with the front two of Fulton and Cousins being ably supported by Weir, Wilton and Gourley. An injury 10 minutes into the half saw centre half Simon Hodgett make way for Andy McLarty who took up position up front with utility man and captain Cousins making the change from terrorising defenders to becoming one.
McLarty almost grabbed a second goal for the Gers within minutes off coming on but his snap shot was well saved. On the hour mark Camlough keeper Goodwill also stopped a free kick from Wilton from 20 yards as Rangers went in search of a winner.
Eight minutes after his previous free kick saw Mark Wilton line one up from a similar angle but this time he gave the keeper no chance by curling his Beckham like free kick over the wall and into the side netting.
Camlough Rovers saw three players find their way into the referee Killian Kerrs book shortly after going behind with several late and rash challenges. Rovers found themselves pinned back well inside their own half for much of the half with the Gers players hunting in packs and closing every ball down.
Substitute Matty McKnight was instrumental in the winning goal when he pick up a pass on the edge of the area and drilled a low shot which could only be parried and Andy McLarty was quickest to react and smashed the ball high into the net to secure all three points with five minutes to go.
This was a superb victory for Banbridge Rangers who are now starting to turn performances into points and put the early season disappointment’s well and truly behind them. With a succession of home games coming up in the next three weeks there is a real sense of confidence with the Rangers camp and will be relishing the visits of Fivemiletown, Dollingstown and Blackers Mill.
Thanks to the parents and coaches from the Junior Committee who manned the BBQ at Cheney Park from 10am to 4pm on Saturday during all three games.