BANBRIDGE TOWN 1
BALLYMONEY UNITED 1
Basement club Ballymoney, under new manager Peter Cairns formerly with Glebe Rangers, travelled to Crystal Park in a game of significant importance to both sides as they were both in dire need of league points to kick start the New Year and a desired climb up the table!
Banbridge opened brightly and Ally Wilson rode a couple of tackles and fired just wide of the post after five minutes.
Ballymoney also showed plenty of determination and on 10 minutes after a Martin Buchanan foul McKenna’s right wing free into the box was cleared by the covering Adam Dennison.
One minute later the visitors almost went ahead when McClelland rose unchallenged to head over from a Stewart cross. Then on 12 minutes Steven O’Neill (looking like he had never been away) pounced on a poor clearance from Ballymoney ‘keeper Moore and steered the ball past the helpless custodian to put the homesters 1 - 0 ahead.
It was a great start for the striker and for Banbridge who had fallen behind early in their previous three games.
A great movement involving Ryan Gourley, Steven O’Neill and Ally Wilson ended with the Ballymoney ‘keeper redeeming himself when he pushed Wilson’s piledriver over the bar.
Gourley’s pace down the right was causing the visitor’s problems although the final ball didn’t always match the superb build up. The little winger collected the ball from an Ally Wilson free kick soon after but his effort was charged down as he pulled the trigger.
Ballymoney were not taking this pressure lying down and only a fine save by Town ‘keeper Stephen Croft on 31 minutes prevented an equaliser after the speedy Brown had outpaced Michael Ferguson.
After 40 minutes David Gray made a good run down the left and sent an inviting cross into the danger area where Ryan Gourley got his head to the ball first but was unfortunate to see the ball go agonisingly wide of the far post.
Steven O’Neill looked odds on to stretch Town’s lead just before the interval when he raced clear to a great Ally Wilson through ball but ‘keeper Moore rescued his side with a fine diving save to thwart the striker.
The first real chance of the half fell to the visitors when Hanna threaded a ball through to the inrushing Brown only for the pacy No. 10 to fire wildly over. On 57 minutes Steven O’Neill had another great opportunity to increase Town’s lead when he once again found himself on a one-to-one with ‘keeper Moore after Adam Dennison had sent him through but the ‘keeper saved brilliantly to keep his side still well i the game.
Banbridge seemed to take their foot off the gas at this stage and Ballymoney forced their way into the game and indeed assumed control putting Town under a lot of pressure.
They forced a number of corners and shocked Banbridge with a 61st minute equaliser when Mark Gillan nudged the ball past Stephen Croft after a comedy of errors in the Town defence.
The visitors now had their tails up and it was now end to end stuff with both sides creating chances.
Moore saved well from an angled David Gray shot on 73 minutes and seconds later Gray turned on the edge of the box and sent a volley inches over. Ally Wilson curled a 30 yard free just wide after 79 minutes but just before the end Town have ‘keeper Stephen Croft to thank for keeping out a thunderous McKane drive that looked destined for the roof of the net.
Banbridge: Croft, Jones, Ferguson, Buchanan, Waddell, Dennison, Gourley, McCartan, Wilson, O’Neill, Gray. Subs: Greene, Evans , Duncan Stoddard, Watson, McConville.
Ballymoney: Moore, McKenna, Dempsey, Craig, Boyle, Dooey, McClelland, Hanna, Stewart, Brown, Gillan. Subs: Guyler, McKane, Steele.
Referee: Neil Robinson, Portadown.