Banbridge Town responded to last week’s disappointing result in the best possible manner.
They went to Dundela and, in what the boss was tipping their ‘biggest game of the season,’ Conor Downey fired Town to a 1-0 win.
It was a result that saw the club up to fifth a tightly packed Championship Two table and sent them six points clear of the bottom five.
Manager Ryan Watson had also promised changes to the starting XI and he was true to his word.
In came Adam Pedlow, Kevin Anderson, Stuart Thompson and Conor Downey, making his return after eight weeks out.
Town started well, Stuart King winning a corner in the first minute and delivering a great ball into the box which found the unmarked Ryan Gourley who headed just over.
Town were playing down the hill in the first half and struggled to get the right weight on their passes with a number of forward balls by-passing Town’s centre midfield duo of McCartan and McGrath and going straight to the keeper or out of play. On 25 minutes, a Stuart King free-kick picked out Downey but his first time shot was high and wide.
Dundela were not sitting back with a lot of their attacks coming from the left where Healey and Burrows were linking well.
The best chance of the half fell to Dundela’s Murray, who beat the Town defenders to get on the end of a Burrows cross but his point blank header was brilliantly saved by Tuda Murphy, who pushed the ball onto the bar.
The second half began with Town, now playing slightly uphill, back on the attack from the kick-off.
On 50 minutes a Stuart Thompson ball from the left into the box found Downey who did well to control it with his first touch but then blasted his shot over the bar.
Pedlow and Gourley were doing well on both wings and Town were looking the more likely to score.
Dundela, however, still held a threat and Murphy was called into action again, saving twice in quick succession as a goal mouth scramble following a Murray effort wasn’t properly cleared.
Pedlow and Downey then worked a throw-in well on the left to win a corner which was headed out for another corner. Town almost went ahead as King’s delivery was headed onto the bar by Downey.
Town were now stretching the home defence, playing balls into the channels and on 70 minutes it paid off as the visitors went ahead.
Stuart Thompson fed Downey from a throw-in on the right and he beat Collins on the wing before cutting inside and bursting through two Dundela defenders to fire an unstoppable drive beyond Sergeant into the far corner.
Town almost went further ahead as Wilson, Pedlow and Downey combined well with the striker’s blocked shot being picked up by King who was ruled offside. Kingsberry replaced the hard working Pedlow with 15 minutes remaining and his pace and ability to beat defenders saw Town force a number of corners as Dundela were pinned back in their own half.
Stephen Greene headed over from a corner as Town tried to get the all important second goal. The home side were becoming increasingly frustrated as the clock counted down and eventually the referee showed a yellow card to Irwin for a late challenge on Chris McGrath.
Dundela threw everything at Town in the final 10 minutes but Banbridge’s defence held firm with Stephen Greene leading by example. The quality of his clearing headers out of defence all through the game even earning (reluctant) praise from the home fans.
Both Burrows and Manley volleyed wide and in injury time Burrows had the final chance to equalise, however when played into space and with only the keeper to beat, he shot straight at the stopper and big Tuda’s safe hands saw Town hold on for a hard fought but deserved three points.
Manager Watson’s call for ‘warriors’ in last week’s Leader was answered by his players who give their all for the Town cause.
Mention must also go to the travelling support who got behind the team throughout the 90 minutes. This result moves Town back up to fifth in the table with only five games remaing, two of which are at home.
Next up for Town is a home derby versus Dollingstown who they beat 5-1 when they met in February. Kick-off at Crystal Park is at 3pm
TOWN: Murphy, Thompson, Greene, Anderson, Wilson, Pedlow (Kingsberry 75), McGrath, McCartan, Gourley, King, Downey. Subs unused: Barr, Boyle, Waddell, Smith.