Banbridge Town got their first point of the season on Saturday, and an impressive one it was.
Travelling to Limavady United, who finished third last season, Town secured a2-2 draw after man of the match Conor Downey bagged a late equaliser.
That added to Chris Kingsberry’s opener as the winger vindicated manager Ryan Watson’s decision to bring him into the line-up at the expense of John Murphy, pushing Ryan #Pixie’ Moffatt back to left-back.
It’s a ground where Town had lost their last three games, conceding 14 and scoring none but Saturday was a vast improvement on that record to help put last week’s disappointing home defeat to Glebe behind them.
The home side started strongly and had the majority of possession in the first 10 minutes. However, with the experience of Glenn Waddell, Stephen Greene and Moffatt at the back, Town weathered the early pressure and gradually came into the game.
On 10 minutes, a Ryan Gourley corner was punched away by the keeper but Kingsberry’s resulting snapshot was blocked by the home defence.
Five minutes later, Gourley had another shot on goal following good build-up between Moffatt, Kingsberry and Downey.
Downey and Moffatt were combining well on the left and on 30 minutes, another link-up between the dangerous duo led to the opening goal. Downey picked up Moffatt’s clearance and raced away from his marker down the left wing before crossing into the centre where Kingsberry took one touch to control before placing a cushioned shot into the top left corner.
The home side came back strongly though and put Town under sustained pressure as Greene was booked for a trademark strong tackle on 40 minutes but the half ended with Town one up.
The home side came flying out of the traps at the start of the second half, pulling the Town midfield and defence all over the pitch as they pressed for an equaliser.
On 55 minutes, Limavady drew level as Friel netted at the back post when Town failed to clear.
With Vady pressing to go ahead, Croft in Town’s goal did well to punch away a 30 yard strike. McCavitt replaced Barr on 65 minutes but almost immediately Town fell behind to that man Friel again, slotting home a cross from the right.
However, Town did not wilt and showed both great character and self belief in pushing for an equaliser. They upped the pace of the game, seeking out McCavitt and a Downey cross was headed just wide by the young striker.
The home tackles were becoming increasingly desperate with Downey, Jones and McCavitt all on the receiving end.
With 15 minutes left though, Town got their deserved equaliser when Downey, who was excellent throughout, chested down a pinpoint Jones cross from the right before placing his shot into the far corner of the net, giving the Limavady keeper no chance.
It was just reward for the sustained pressure by Town. Michael Ferguson and Duncan Stoddart replaced Gourley and Kingsberry with 10 minutes left as Town pressed for the winner.
Ferguson had a couple of chances but snatched at his shot on both occasions. In the dying minutes, Croft pulled off a great save from Friel to deny the striker a hat-trick and the home side an undeserved victory.
Town manager Ryan Watson and his players can be rightly proud of a battling point away to one of the pre-season favourites for this year’s Championship Two title. On today’s performance, Town should also believe they too can be in the shake-up in the business end of the season.
On Tuesday 18th, Town host Armagh City from Championship 1 in round one of the JBE League Cup, KO at Crystal Park 6.45pm; the match must be played to a finish and will go to extra time and penalties if required.
Saturday next 22nd Town host unbeaten Tobermore United in week 3 of Championship 2, KO at Crystal Park 3.00pm.
Town have been drawn away to Loughgall United in the preliminary round of the Mid-Ulster Cup; match will be played on Tuesday September 22nd, KO tbc.