What a difference a season makes.
Last term, Banbridge Town were thrashed 3-0 and 4-0 by Dollingstown but showed their progress on Saturday with a 5-1 mauling of their local rivals at Planters Park.
In-form winger Ryan Gourley netted twice while Chris Kingsberry, Stuart King and Matthew McCartan also found the target to send Town up to fourth in the Championship Two table with now just one defeat in their last 11 league outings.
In last week’s Leader, manager Ryan Watson asked his side to prove they are a ‘different animal’ to the one Dollingstown put to the sword last season and they certainly delivered.
Neil Barr recovered from last week’s injury at Portstewart and James Wilson started at right back, with Kevin Anderson paired with Stephen Greene at centre half and Matthew McCartan starting in midfield. Town’s vocal travelling supporters were out in force two, outnumbering the home support by more than two to one.
Town started the game positively with Stuart King, Ryan Gourley and Neil Barr linking up well on the left to force the first corner. Town caught the home side off guard, Kingsberry playing it short to Gourley in space but his shot went over.
Town were looking the most likely to score, playing some great possession football with McGrath and McCartan winning the midfield battle with King, Gourley and Kingsberry providing the attacking threat.
And on 13 minutes, their dominance was rewarded. Moffatt won possession in his own half and took it forward into the opposition half before playing a delightful crossfield ball to Kingsberry who took one touch before blasting the ball past debutant Dollingstown keeper David Rowney.
Gourley was a constant threat on the left and three minutes later he put Town two up. His pace took him past two defenders into the area and his attempted lay-off to King was blocked but the winger was first to the rebound and, despite close attention from the defence, got his shot away to score.
On 30 minutes, Dollingstown suffered a setback when influential defender and former Town favourite Neil King was stretchered off with a knee injury.
That didn’t interrupt Town’s flow, though, as the visitors poured forward and made it 3-0 on 40 minutes.
McCartan won the ball in midfield and played a great defence splitting pass to Gourley who kept a cool head to dink a delightful chip over the advancing keeper.
Barr and King had chances to put Town further ahead but against the run of play, Dollingstown were given some hope going into the break.
A free-kick from the right was palmed away by Tuda Murphy but the clearance fell to the unmarked Donaghy whose shot somehow ended up in the net.
The goal lifted Dollingstown who pressed for a second in the four minutes of injury time. It looked as if Hand would get another back as he rode two Town challenges and bore down on goal but a perfectly timed last gap tackle by McCartan kept the scores at 3-1.
The home side started the second half strongly, no doubt having been on the end of some tough words from manager Gary Duke.
The first goal was going to be crucial and it was Dollingstown who pressed forward with both Tomelty and Gibson prominent.
Town’s defence and midfield stood strong and got their rewards when Town killed off the fightback on 56 minutes.
It was a delightfully worked goal worthy of winning any match. Kingsberry and McCartan combined to turn three defenders inside out with neat passing for the former Linfield winger delivered a cut-back for McCartan to side-foot home.
Town’s fifth goal duly arrived on 77 minutes. Barr held up a pass from midfield before laying it off to Kingsberry on the right and he rolled a pass to Stuart King on the edge of the area. The recent signing curled a great left foot shot into the top corner for his third goal in two games.
The final whistle was a welcome relief for the home side but also provided the opportunity for the Banbridge team and their supporters to celebrate a comprehensive victory after what was probably their best display of the current season.
There were many good individual performances but it was the collective team effort which blew Dollingstown away.
After the game, delighted Town Manager Ryan Watson paid tribute to the travelling support. Town are a team in form and this result moves them up to fourth, level on points with third placed Tobermore United who they travel to in two weeks.
Next up its Newington at Crystal Park on Saturday 20th KO 3.00pm.
Everyone at Banbridge Town want to wish popular former player Neil King who picked up a knee injury during yesterday’s game a speedy recovery.
TOWN: Murphy, Moffat, Greene, Anderson, Wilson, Gourley, McGrath, McCartan, Kingsberry, King (McParland 75), Barr (Boyle 80).
Unused subs: Croft, Pedlow, Buchanan.
Referee: J Robinson