THERE will never be a better example of that old adage - “If you don’t take your chances when they are presented to you they may come back to haunt you” - than at Crystal Park on Saturday last.
Banbridge Town spurned a host of gilt edged chances in a first half they dominated and were left to rue these chances when second in the table Armagh City pounced in the second half to take full points after a hard fought and thoroughly entertaining 90 minutes.
Armagh’s first goal in the 61st minute, against the run of play, was seen by some home fans as a poor decision as a visiting player received the ball in what they deemed to be an offside position when he received the ball but was allowed to proceed to score.
It was a heartbreaking moment for Town as they had matched the high flying Armagh men in every facet of the game and looked more than capable of taking the points.
However they can have no quibble over the second goal as it was a well taken effort from a corner with the Town defence totally caught out marking shadows.
There was a frantic opening to the game with Town taking the game to the visitors and indeed were unlucky not to have a first minute penalty when a Stevie McArdle shot clearly struck the arm of a defender inside the box with the Linesman having a clear view. However he kept the flag down much to the consternation of the vociferous home support.
Ex-Town player Shea McGerrigan tested Stephen Croft with a stiff ground shot soon after before McArdle raced through to fire against the post with ‘keeper Morgan beaten.
It was great end to end stuff and Croft advanced quickly from his area to smother a Grimley shot after the lightning quick winger had raced on to a McGerrigan pass.
Town should have scored in the 10th minute when the impressive McArdle left three defenders in his wake but shot wide with the goal gaping! Three minutes later a fine Tumilty/McArdle move resulted in attacking defender Thompson volleying over.
Banbridge were laying seige to the visitors goal at this stage and missed yet another chance after the move of the first half - Tumilty sent Kingsberry racing down the right and his pin point cross was glanced wide by the inrushing McArdle. How Town were not out of sight at this stage was anybodys guess!
A bad clearance out of defence saw City’s number nine Murray hone in on Town’s goal but Croft saved the homesters when he safely held the former’s drive.
Conor Downey had a fierce shot pushed out by Morgan after 25 minutes and the versatile City ‘keeper, who was in no small way responsible for keeping his side in the game, saved brilliantly from Chris McGrath one minute later when he prevented a certain goal after Kingsberry had sent the latter through with a deft flick that bamboozled the Armagh rearguard.
On the half hour Downey tried to chip Morgan but the ‘keeper was equal to it. Not to be undone Grimley attempted a similar chip at the other end but again Croft in the Town goal was up for it.
Armagh almost stole a first half lead on 44 minutes but Thompson was on hand to clear off the line with Croft beaten. It was scoreless at half-time with Town wondering how they had failed to score on quite a few occasions!
The second half opened with Downey getting in behind the City rearguard but blasting wide and the latter should have done better after 56 minutes when he fired badly wide after great work from stephen O’Neill, who had replaced the injured Kingsberry, and Paul Walsh. Banbridge were exerting heavy pressure and forced a succession of fruitless corners.
However Armagh City were coming more and more into the game and the loss of Kingsberry was having an effect on Town’s creative ability. Less was being seen of McArdle, McGrath and Downey with Walsh being left to furrow upfront on his own at times.
Then came the ‘offside’ goal after 61 minutes which was a devastating blow for Town with Cusack racing in from the left to bundle into the net despite the efforts of the back tracking Town defence.
A stunned Town were almost further behind a minute later with a Grimley drive from the edge of the box being too close for comfort. Banbridge settled again and Chris McGrath forced Morgan to tip over a goal bound shot after 70 minutes.
Three minutes later and Town were left with a mountain to climb after Walker rose unchallenged to head past Croft following a McGerrigan corner. It was a bad mistake from the Town defence, who had been so resolute up to this point, and one from which they could not recover.
To their credit however they continued to fight hard and they forced several corners with Thompson going close from one of these when he placed his shot from a rebound out of the ‘keepers reach but the wrong side of the post.
Fellow defender Buchanan saw a header go wide just befor the end when he got his head to another well delivered Walsh corner.
Despite this defeat Town showed they are on the right path with star performances from Stephen Greene and ‘keeper Stevie Croft.
With Brian Adair set to add to his squad in January things are looking promising and with competition for places hotting up it can only mean a stronger squad and a bright future.
Next Saturday is Intermediate Cup Round 3 with Town travelling to Brantwood (kick-off 1.30 p.m.)
Banbridge Town: Stephen Croft, Stuart Thompson, Simon Robb, Stephen Greene, Martin Buchanan, Chris McGrath, Chris Kingsberry, Barry Tumilty, Conor Downey, Stephen McArdle, Paul Walsh. Subs: Johnny Porter, Stephen O’Neill (for Kingsberry 55 mins.), Stephen Jones.
Armagh City: Sean Morgan, Dale Montgomery, Ryan McGerrigan, Ultan Lennon, Johnny Walker, Miceal McKenna, Gareth Grimley, Liam Cullen, Stephen Murray, Gavin Cusack, Shea McGerrigan. Subs: John Daly, Adam Nesbitt, Matthew Hynds (for S. McGerrigan 90 mins.), Barry Quinn (for Grimley 83 mins.), Mark Davidson.
Referee: Simon Creaney (N’Ards). Banbridge Town Football Club would like to thank Paul Cull, Chairman Banbridge Town Ladies Football Club for their kind sponsorship of the Match Ball for last Saturday’s Game.