Match Report – Banbridge Town v Lisburn Distillery (Playr-Fit Premier Intermediate League) – Saturday 2nd September 2023
After a midweek League Cup game it was back to league action on Saturday as Lisburn Distillery travelled to Crystal Park to face Banbridge Town. The Whites were looking for their first league points of the season after losing to Ballymacash the previous week and Crystal Park had not been a happy hunting ground for Distillery with the last win at this ground coming in 2020 in the Intermediate Cup and the last league win in March 2019.
Not too surprisingly, Barry Johnston stuck with the same starting eleven that beat Ballymacash on Tuesday night, but Josh Lynch returned to the squad following a suspension and club captain Ethan Carry was also fit enough to take his place on the bench after picking up an injury the previous Saturday. Deadline day loan signing from Cliftonville, Gerard Stroey’s, transfer was not completed before the Friday noon deadline for him to feature in this game
The visitors went close to opening the scoring in the 3rd minute, the ball came to Johnny Newell on the edge of the area, but the midfielder could not get much power behind his effort. Michael Gallagher attempted to send the ball goalwards, but his effort was parried away by Banbridge goalkeeper, Niall Brady.
Four minutes later, Justin Grattan shot from about 20 yards, but his effort was well over the Banbridge crossbar and a minute later up the other end Craig Robinson was forced into a great save to prevent a powerful long-range effort from a Banbridge player from going in.
On the 15-minute mark a cross into the Banbridge box from the right was not cleared by the home defence but neither Jamie Devenny nor Gallagher were able to take advantage, though the next real chance came five minutes later when Kyle Flynn passed infield to Newell after picking up a good pass from Angus on the left but this time the Whites stand in captain’s shot was cleared off the line.
Over the remaining 25 minutes Ryan McNickle, Devenny and Conor McDermott all tried their luck on goal but only Devenny went close with his effort being pushed away by Brady and the ball went out for a corner before Gallagher could reach the rebound.
The half ended with Distillery having enjoyed some encouraging spells of possession at times throughout the half, but they were going to need to make these count for something sooner or later if they were to leave with anything to show from the game.
Half Time: Banbridge Town 0-0 Lisburn Distillery
Distillery were on the attack from the first minute of the second half, McNickle hooked the ball through for half time substitute Craig McCutcheon to run onto, but his touch was too heavy, and the ball ran through for Brady to claim.
Three minutes later McCutcheon was involved again, this time he got on the end of a Curtis Woods ball forward and despite the close attentions of Matthew Rendina, managed to get a shot off, but it did not trouble Brady and went wide.
The home side did have the ball in the net when a looping header beat Robinson after the referee had awarded a drop ball to Banbridge much to the frustration of the Whites players, but the celebrations were cut short by the offside flag and Johnston’s side could breathe a sigh of relief.
Five minutes later, there was another let off for the visitors when McDermott was forced to clear an effort off the goal-line and Robinson was called into action to prevent the rebound from being scored.
After this it was all Distillery for the reminder of the half but despite plenty of possession and some good build up play it just seemed that the final ball into the box could not find a purple shirt and up the other end Jourdan Shearer and Stephen McCavitt had efforts for Banbridge, but both failed to hit the target.
With three minutes of normal time remaining Gallagher showed some good play down the left to get into the box and pulled the ball back to Gledis Cakaj to shoot, the substitute did not need to be asked twice as he sent a first-time effort goalwards but Brady made a great save to push the ball behind for a corner, which came to nothing.
In the second minute of injury time, McCutcheon headed goalwards from a right hand cross, but this was cleared off the line by a Banbridge defender and Gallagher could only put the rebound over the bar.
There were further efforts in injury time from McDermott and Cakaj but again, both efforts were denied by Brady.
At this point it was looking like it was not going to be Distillery’s day and something spectacular was going to be needed to beat Brady, enter McNickle.
Second half substitute Lynch picked the ball up a few yards outside the box and sent a curling cross into the box that looked like it was going to drift out for a goal kick, but Newell, standing virtually on the bye-line, headed the ball back into the danger area, were McNickle met the ball with a spectacular overhead kick that flew past Brady and into the back of the net in the seventh minute of added time.
In doing so not only did McNickle win the match for Distillery, as when Banbridge kicked off to resume play the referee blew for full time, but the summer signing also equalled a club record that has stood for 80 years by scoring in his first five games for the club.
At full time there was much joy at what had been a hard-earned win to pick up our first league points of the season but once again attention now turns to the next game, away to East Belfast on Saturday in the Steel & Sons Cup.
Full Time: Banbridge Town 0-1 Lisburn Distillery
Lisburn Distillery; Robinson, Sharkey, Flynn, McDermott, Angus, Woods, Grattan, Newell, Gallagher, McNickle, Devenny
Lisburn Distillery substitutions; Carry, McCutcheon (for Devenny, 46 mins), Lewis (for Sharkey, 46 mins), Lynch (for Grattan, 61 mins), Cakaj (for Flynn, 74 mins), Savage (for Angus, 35 mins), Geddis
Match report by Cameron Moore (@cameron2604)
David Hunter’s picture gallary from this game can be found @ https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjATvdE