Banbridge Town’s defence passed an examined in their last pre-split fixture on Saturday as they edged out bottom of the table Sport and Leisure Swifts 2-1 at Crystal Park.
Manager Ronnie Haughey was forced into one change as Matthew McCartan replaced the unavailable James Wilson at full-back in an otherwise unchanged line-up.
It was the visitors who had the first real opportunity when in the seventh minute Ryan Burns headed wide.
Just two minutes later, Banbridge took the lead when, following a set piece of their own, skipper Ryan Moffatt showed some clever skills in the left channel and crossed for central defender Stephen Greene to slide home.
The match took a controversial turn in the 20th minute when Referee Mr Mahon, having originally awarded a free-kick to Banbridge, reversed his decision and followed this with the issue of a straight red card to Town’s Kevin Anderson.
Town re-shaped and pulled Clydesdale back into a more defensive role with McCavitt and Downey counter-attacking.
On the half hour, Sport thought they had equalised when a fine through pass gave McGovern the chance to take the ball round home keeper Andrew Cullen only for his goalbound effort to be cleared athletically off the line by Stephen Acheson.
In the run up to half time, Moffatt for Banbridge and Tully for the visitors both hit the woodwork, but Banbridge held on to their 1-0 lead.
Town doubled their lead two minutes after the restart when Stephen McCavitt drove at the defence and won a free-kick.
Up stepped specialist Neil Clydesdale and Magill in the away goal was left stranded as the ball flew past him.
Nine minutes later, the lead was halved when, following yet another long throw, the ball fell nicely to the unmarked Burns who hammered home. Sport & Leisure continued their long ball and set piece assault on Town’s goal but didn’t seem to realise that this method was food and drink to defenders of the quality of Acheson, Greene and Thompson, and the few times that they were beaten, Cullen’s handling and distribrution was impeccable.
Town were forced into substitutions when both full backs had to be replaced. McCartan received a cut to his head and McCreanor took his place while Thompson was also forced off with injury. Town introduced Stephen Teggart into midfield and Moffatt took Thompson’s place.
Andrew Wilson then replaced the tiring Downey and the change almost paid immediate dividends when Wilson’s cross was met by McCavitt who shot wide.
The Banbridge supporters had to endure a very long seven minutes of added time but eventually Mr Mahon signalled the end of the game and and fourth place going into the split was secured.
TOWN: Cullen; McCartan (McCreanor 68); Acheson; Greene; Thompson (Teggart 73); Anderson; King; Moffatt; Clydesdale; Downey (A Wilson 80). Unused Subs: Pedlow; Hayes
Referee: Mr Oisin Mahon