CHAMPIONS-ELECT Knockbreda took a giant step towards winning Championship 2 with a good second half display which yielded three goals and effectively killed off a Banbridge Town side which seemed to have their minds firmly set on their forthcoming Mid-Ulster Cup semi-final.
Against a side of Knockbreda’s quality - they have scored a total of 94 goals so far this season, conceding only 19 - it was always going to be an uphill task and to enter the game minus Timmy Grant, Neil Alderdice, Willie Herron and Kevin Henry made it an almost impossible one.
They did however start very brightly and created three chances within the opening five minutes. Chris McGrath saw a fierce shot saved at the base of the post by ‘keeper Cairnduff and both Conor Downey and Barry Tumilty went close soon after.
Chris Kingsberry was the victim of a cynical tackle as the robust and more physical Belfast men outmuscled lightweight Town and all the visitors good early work was undone after eight minutes when the talented ‘Breda No.7 Colum Curtis outmanoeuvered Mattie McCartan before rounding Nathan Morley-Hillen to put the homesters ahead.
Nevertheless it was not a bad half for Banbridge with the diminutive Ryan Gourley working his socks off with little reward but showing that he has a bright future in front of him.
Conor Downey fluffed a great chance to equalise after 26 minutes when he fired straight at Cairnduff when played in with a delightful ball.
Paul Walsh too was having a lot of success raiding down the left and tested the ‘keeper with a couple of trademark long range efforts. Six minutes into the second half Chris McGrath wasted the Town’s best - and last - chance to level matters when he blazed over the bar when well placed. Steven O’Neill replaced the ineffective Downey on the hour but Town were left with a mountain to climb one minute later when Wright scored with a tap in after a right wing cross had caused utter confusion in the Banbridge defence.
Aaron Cobb was introduced in place of McCartan and in the 66th minutes the pacy O’Neill raced into the box but is effort was saved by the ever alert Cairnduff.
The game was finally settled after 80 minutes as the light started to fade for Town in more ways than one when Hanna made it 3-0 after an error from Neil King who lost possession inside the 18 yard line.
Knockbreda’s Portugese striker Miguel Chimes was on hand to prod past Morley-Hillen in the 86th minute to give the scoreline a lopsided look which was somewhat unkind to Town. However Knockbreda fully deserved the points which gave them their sixth straight win and an almost certain League Championship which no one could begrudge them.
TEAM: Nathan Morley-Hillen, Mattie McCartan, Paul Walsh, Stuart Thompson, Neil King, Barry Tumilty, Ryan Gourley, Chris McGrath, Conor Downey, Chris Kingsberry, Adam Pedlow. Subs: Steven O’Neill (for Downey 60 mins.), Aaron Cobb (for McCartan 63 mins.), Brian Adair, Neil Alderdice.