Ryan Gourley delivered the winner for plucky Banbridge Town, as they came from behind to beat the bottom side.
They had fallen behind at Wakehurst’s Mill Meadow but substitute Neil Barr levelled on 75 to pave the way for Gourley’s 80th minute winner.
Town stay in ninth but it’s a result that leaves the club level on points with seventh placed Newington and ensures they stay clear of the at-risk bottom five.
With Chris McGrath and Glen Waddell not available, manager Ryan Watson shuffled the deck; Stuart Thompson returned from injury at left back, Martin Buchanan partnered Stephen Greene at centre half and Stephen Jones went in to right back. Town’s travelling support got their first opportunity to see new signing Stuart King in the red & black as he made his debut in midfield.
Town started well with Ryan Gourley’s pace providing a threat on the left wing. After five minutes, a King pass set him free and his cross into the centre picked out captain Ryan Moffatt but his header went wide.
Wakehurst weren’t playing like a team who had only picked up five points from 36 though, with frontmen George Young and Conor Gregg giving Town’s defence plenty to do.
Meanwhile, King was seeing a lot of the ball in the Town midfield and his control and distribution was keeping Town going forward.
Gourley was involved in most of Town’s best moves; he won a corner and took it, his flighted ball finding Kevin Anderson at the back post but his goalbound header back across goal was nodded off the line by McCartney.
Wakehurst immediately broke upfield and some neat passing had Town’s defence in disarray. A deflected Young shot hit the post and went out for a corner and then Niall Swan headed another good chance over.
Town responded and pushed forward, winning another corner. Town felt Kingsberry’s delivery into the box was handled by a Wakehurst defender but the referee ignored their appeals.
Then came Town’s best move of the match. King, Kingsberry and Moffatt combined well in midfield, the ball going wide to Downey on the right and his cross into the centre was headed out for a corner, from which Downey’s shot was deflected wide.
There was still time left for chances at either end before the break but Karl Steele headed over for Wakehurst while King and Moffatt both shot wide at the other end.
Wakehurst started the second half strongly, creating two good opportunities in the first 10 minutes; a Gregg shot from the left was just wide and then Young beat the offside to get through but keeper Tuda Murphy pulled off a good save.
As the floodlights came on, Ryan Watson made his first change, strengthening his attack with Neil Barr replacing Chris Kingsberry as Town put two up front.
However, it was Wakehurst who gained the advantage when Wakehurst forward Gregg converted one on one. After a Buchanan headed clearance was sent forward again, Town’s defence were beaten and the striker made no mistake.
Town were straight back on the attack, winning a corner on the left. Moffatt delivered a great ball to the back post, where it was headed back across goal by Kevin Anderson but went wide.
Anderson then turned provider, crossing from the right and finding Downey whose flick header was narrowly wide.
Town continued to pile on the pressure and got their reward with 15 minutes left. The ball was moved forward from midfield by King and Moffatt who found Barr on the edge of the area. His shot on the turn was blocked but the loose ball was picked up by Gourley who took the ball to the left byline before floating a great cross across the goal and there was Barr to head Town level.
The visitors were lifted by the goal and were pushing forward with pace in search of a second. Ryan Watson made a double substitution as Moffatt and Jones were replaced by James Wilson and Adam Pedlow.
King then had a chance for a debut goal as he got on the end of a Downey cross from the right but he couldn’t direct it past the keeper.
It was all Banbridge now and with 10 minutes left, the pressure told as Gourley picked the ball up on the right wing and cut inside before getting his shot away. It took a slight deflection off a Wakehurst defender on the way and flew into the net to put Town ahead.
From there, Town tried to close out the game, keeping the ball well with some neat passing and movement. Wakehurst did force a corner but Town’s defence cleared the danger and that was enough to secure all three points.
TOWN: Murphy, Thompson, Greene, Buchanan, Jones (Wilson 75), Kingsberry (Barr 55), Anderson, King, Moffat (Pedlow 75), Gourley, Downey.
Unused subs: Croft, McParland.