Amateur Premier side Albert Foundry, unbeaten in their league, travelled confidently to Crystal Park to meet the challenge of an inconsistent Banbridge Town on Saturday but were sent packing after a 2-1 home win.
Town had been anxious to extend their Cup season into 2015 and got the job done despite going behind, a Conor Downey double ensuring the win.
The home side were once again depleted by injury and unavailability with Mark Teggart, Dee McParland, Nathan Baird, Adam Dennison and Steve Jones all missing.
For the first quarter, Town played like a side without conviction and were second fiddle to a strong Foundry team who could have gone ahead in their first attack when a tantalising cross from Doyle was headed over by Mitchell who was unmarked in front of goal.
The visitors were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position soon after but wasted the chance with an effort that floated aimlessly over. Their early pressure was rewarded on nine minutes with a goal from centre back Burns who poked the ball home in a crowded goalmouth after Town keeper James McConville failed to punch clear following a left wing cross.
However, the keeper redeemed himself with a great stop from Doyle after 15 minutes. Three minutes later, he came to Banbridge’s rescue with a smart double save from Bloomer after initially pushing the centre forward’s shot onto the bar.
Town were now warming to the task and Conor Downey fired a 20 yard drive straight at ex-Town custodian Sprite Cairnduff in the visitors’ goal after a good pass from Ryan Gourley.
Town were now exerting the pressure with Mattie McCartan, Ally Wilson and Gourley dominating the midfield with penetrating runs. Downey headed over from a Gourley right wing cross on 33 minutes and David Gray on the other wing shot across goal after 41 minutes.
One minute later a bullet-like header from Ally Wilson deserved a goal but scraped the paintwork as it went the wrong side of the post.
The equaliser Banbridge deserved came one minute from the break when Conor Downey bent a 22-yard free-kick on the edge of the box well out of Cairnduff’s reach and into the corner of the net.
It was a great recovery from Town after a horror opening quarter and after 47 minutes McCartan fired agonisingly over following another blistering run from the busy Gourley.
Foundry were still very much in the game though and on 56 minutes Mitchell was not far away when he met a cross from his full back Hill. Ally Wilson could have put Town ahead two minutes later with a free header from a Gourley pin point cross but was off target.
The Banbridge fight-back was complete on 62 minutes when Conor Downey raced behind the visitors to plant his shot into the corner much to the delight of the home support.
It was Downey’s second goal of the game and it is great to see one of Town’s goal-men coming back to his lethal form.
The Foundry fought hard and Doyle was close following a 67th minute corner. The visitors exerted some pressure as they searched for an equaliser and Mitchell shot wide after 85 minutes. Two minutes later Ally Wilson went close to putting the issue beyond doubt with a curling free-kick from the edge of the box.
Sub Duncan Stoddard almost had a dream first touch when he met an inviting James Wilson cross but screwed his effort wide.
At the final whistle, it was Banbridge Town who had qualified for round four with a deserved 2-1 victory which should be a morale booster for the future when most of the unavailable players should be back in contention for a starting place.
There were several eye catching performances but I think man-of-the-match in this instance should be shared between Ryan Gourley and Ally Wilson.
BANBRIDGE TOWN: James McConville, Michael Ferguson, James Wilson, Stephen Greene, Glen Waddle, Martin Buchanan, Ryan Gourley, Mattie McCartan, Alastair Wilson, Conor Downey, David Gray. Subs: Duncan Stoddard (Gourley 90), Neil Watson, Gareth Orr, Stephen Croft (GK).
ALBERT FOUNDRY: Stephen Cairnduff, Wayne Maxwell, Scott Hill, Samuel McCaw, John Burns, Paul Acheson, Darren McCombe, Paul McCord, Barry Bloomer, Jamie Mitchell, Stuart Doyle. Subs: Jordan Clarke (Doyle 76), Bill Maxwell (Wayne Maxwell 76), Neil Irvine (McCaw 70).
Referee: Jamie Robinson, Portadown.