Ryan Gourley has etched his name into the folklore of Banbridge Town.
On what was, some claimed, the biggest day of the club’s 69 year history, the winger smashed two goals to secure a 2-0 win over Sport & Leisure Swifts and with it Town’s Championship Two survival.
An almost priceless reward and it turned out that Town needed a result to survive. Due to other results, a defeat would have seen them finish a point behind Dollingstown, who were the last team through the trap door.
A trip to face the third placed side was far from an ideal game for such an important occasion but Town have proved that they are more than capable of a big result.
With no new injuries, manager Ryan Watson was able to field an unchanged team from the previous week’s draw with PSNI.
Their opponents had played five games in the last 13 days but Town were expecting a tough match.
Fired on by a vociferous travelling support, Town almost went ahead after only five minutes.
James Wilson played a ball down the right wing to Gourley who beat his marker and delivered a great low cross into the box to be met by Chris McGrath but his first time effort was claimed at the second attempt by home keeper Magill.
Town kept up their pressing football and got their reward on 20 minutes.
A Stuart King ball from midfield down the left wing didn’t appear to provide much threat but last defender Johnston mis-controlled and the ever alert Gourley nipped in to win possession. He didn’t need a second invitation, skipping round the keeper and calmly slotting home to send the travelling support into raptures. The big win was on.
The home side piled the pressure on in search of an equaliser but Town were resolute in defence; Anderson, McParland and McGrath were dominant in midfield whilst Greene and Waddell were rock solid at the back.
Tuda Murphy was called into action before the break with a simple stop from Moore followed by a more impressive reflex save from Lynch’s snapshot.
It remained 1-0 at the break, which proved useful to the support for checking scores elsewhere. If the scoreline stayed the same though, Town woudn’t even need any favours elsewhere.
With score updates coming in during the second half though, it became apparent that another goal would be needed, just to make sure.
On the pitch, Town carried the more attacking threat with Downey and Gourley creating panic in the home defence every time they got on the ball.
With 30 minutes left, the two combined as Downey was picked out by a great cross-field pass from Gourley and the striker did well to create space to shoot but the effort was high and wide.
They didn’t have to wait too long for the second goal. It arrived on 75 minutes, allowing the Town supporters to begin to think safety was in sight.
McParland and King combined to release Downey on the right; he beat his marker before delivering a great cross into Gourley who steered the ball wide of the keeper’s outstretched arm into the far corner.
Cue jubilation from the travelling support.
Town were now in the ascendancy and rather than sit on their lead, they continued to attack.
The home side’s hopes weren’t helped when substitute McGrogan, who was only on the pitch a matter of minutes, was sent off for cynically scything down King in midfield.
Town then managed to keep the ball to see out the game, and the season, knowing, finally, that it will be Championship Two football again next season.
TOWN: Murphy, Moffat, Greene, Waddell, Wilson, Gourley, McParland, McGrath (Buchanan 80), Anderson, King, Downey.
Subs unused: Pedlow, Barr, Jones, Thompson.