Banbridge Town exited the Tennent’s Irish Cup in a big day at Crystal Park last Saturday.
They welcomed Danske Bank Premiership side Carrick Rangers in the fifth round but came unstuck, going down 2-0 to the County Antrim side.
Early goals in each half from Miguel Chines and Daniel Kelly proved Town’s undoing in front of a healthy crowd at Crystal Park.
Stephen Greene returned from suspension to partner Glenn Waddell in the centre of Town’s defence whilst Stephen Jones slotted in at right back with James Wilson at left back as Stuart Thompson was out with a hamstring injury.
Marty Buchanan and Kevin Anderson partnered up in the heart of the midfield, with Chris McGrath playing higher up the pitch.
Once again, the Crystal Park pitch stood up to all the elements and the large, expectant crowd enjoyed a full blooded cup tie.
Carrick Rangers showed their pedigree as they took no time at all to settle and piled the pressure straight on to give Banbridge some early defending.
The pressure ultimately told after only five minutes when Carrick captain Aaron Harmon won the race for the ball down the right, before firing a dangerous low cross into the box for in-form striker Miguel Chines to covert high into the net and give the visitors an early lead.
Banbridge were still trying to find their feet in the opening exchanges and almost found themselves two goals down when goal-scorer Chines nodded down a cross for Harmon whose shot was well blocked by a hard working Stephen Greene.
The resulting corner posed a threat however keeper Tuda Murphy commanded his area well to punch clear.
The game threatened to run away from Town as Harmon caused more problems down the left when he skipped passed two men only to fire straight at Murphy.
After that, Banbridge finally had the measure of their opponents and started to play football of their own with Martin Buchanan and Kevin Anderson asserting their authority in the midfield while Moffatt was finding pockets of space to operate in.
Carrick were defending strongly though and at times proved they could be razor sharp on the break. The visitors also looked dangerous from set pieces but keeper Tuda Murphy was commanding his area and showing exactly why Town brought him in.
Left back James Wilson had his hands full but was equal measure to anything coming towards him, while Greene was marshalling Carrick striker Gary Browne well in what was becoming a great contest between the pair.
Banbridge’s best chance of the half came when Downey headed down for Moffatt to hit from the edge of the area, but his effort sailed wide. Downey also struck a first time volley from the edge of the area but it went wide of the right upright.
Banbridge emerged for the second half full of optimism and still firmly in the tie. With a strong bench including Barr, Kingsberry and Pedlow, Town manager Ryan Watson would have hoped to keep the game tight before introducing fresh players for a final push in the last 30 minutes.
Carrick showed signs in the first half that they were dangerous on the break, and with the second half minutes old, they proved just that as they added a second goal.
A shot from the edge of the area by Kyle Cherry was stoppedd spectacularly by Tuda Murphy who got down low at full stretch to save at the near post. However, the former Cayman Islands international keeper was unable to prevent Daniel Kelly following up to put his side 2-0 ahead.
Banbridge still had much intent about their play, and a fantastic link down the left with James Wilson and Ryan Gourley was proving a fruitful outlet as Gourley whipped in a dangerous ball which Carrick could only partially clear to the feet of Chris McGrath. He rushed his shot though, and fired over from the edge of the area.
Banbridge looked like they had goals in them, and a reshuffle of the pack saw Barr and Kingsberry replace Buchanan and Waddell. The changes had an instant impact with Barr’s work-rate and presence adding a new dimension to the Town play.
Downey was replaced by Pedlow on 80 minutes as Town threw everything at Carrickl, coming close when Moffatt whipped in a free kick which was met by the head of Greene who got the direction, but not the power to beat Neeson.
As the game ran down, Banbridge committed more men to the attack. However it was Carrick who almost killed the game off with a third when they broke well with striker Ben Roy one on one before he was denied by another top drawer Murphy save.
Ultimately, Banbridge’s lack of chances and a cutting edge in the final third condemned them to defeat in what was a fantastic cup tie for the large crowd.
Banbridge Town would like to thank Harry’s Bar & Kitchen for sponsoring the pre-match breakfast and match sponsor, Q Cabs Banbridge, as well as all the mascots and the ball boys who did a great job.
TOWN: Murphy, Wilson, Greene, Waddell (Kingsberry 60), Jones, Moffatt (captain), Buchanan (Barr 60), Anderson, McGrath, Gourley, Downey (Pedlow 80). Unused subs: Croft, McParland.
Referee: R Hetherington.