Banbridge 4 Bromac Kelburne 0
Banbridge produced a stunning display against the hosts to reach the final of the Eurohockey Club Champions Trophy in Glasgow. The 4-0 score-line didn’t do justice to a performance which oozed class from the start and left their Scottish counterparts and their fans applauding the Bann team at the end of the game. Goals from Wright, McCandless, Dowds and Eugene Magee ensured that Banbridge finished top of Pool A and progressed to tomorrow’s final, whilst in the process all but securing qualification for next seasons Euro Hockey League.
Banbridge were on the offensive from the start with a circle entry straight from the opening whistle, but it came to noting. Jamie Wright and Owen Magee also had good breaks early in the game with the latter’s reverse stick effort bravely blocked by the Kelburne defender.
Despite the early pressure, Matthew Bell had to be alert to make a clever interception to deny a swift Kelburne counter-attack. And Bell again had to recover to make a good saving tackle to thwart another Kelburne chance after he had lost possession in a dangerous area of the pitch shortly afterwards.
The introduction of Stephen Dowds in the tenth minute had an immediate impact on the game. His direct run down the right and along the baseline saw the ball fall to Fraser Mills, but his effort went just wide of the post. Mark Campbell then superbly stole the ball from a Scottish defender before setting up Eugene Magee whose reverse stick effort was saved by the goalkeeper’s outstretched left foot.
Bann were now in total control and Kelburne could do little to thwart the now continuous attacks from the Irish representatives. Bell found Brad Logan with a superb overhead and his cross was superbly met by Dowds who saw the keeper somehow get his left hand to the shot to turn in around the post. Then Dowds won Bann’s first penalty corner of the game in the twenty second minute and saw his effort hit the inside of the post and rebound across the goal-line and to safety. Wright was the next to have a good chance, finding himself through on goal with only the keeper to beat, his effort hit the side netting.
Finally Dowds gave the Banbridge supporters the goal they had been craving. His run from just outside the twenty-five saw him evade two defenders before coolly slotting the ball under the advancing goalkeeper. The goal was no more than Bann and the impressive Dowds deserved after a dominant opening half hour of the match.
From the restart Kelburne nearly caught Bann sleeping. The Scottish forward found himself 1v1 with Gareth Lennox in the Bann goal and the big keeper made a superb sliding save with his chest to keep his side in the lead.
The half ended with another chance for Bann, but Dowd’s attempted through ball to put Mills through on goal was just over-hit and Bann went into the break a goal to the good.
The second half opened with Bell getting himself into a mess in the back left corner and Bann were very lucky to escape without conceding. But that was to be the only half chance that the Scottish side were to get in the second half as the Bann side produced a nearly flawless display of hockey.
Eugene Magee should have put Wright in on goal in the third minute but misplaced his pass. And then Owen Magee was cynically hacked down after a superb run from his own half. The Kelburne defender was given a ten minute yellow card suspension which was to prove critical to the outcome of the game. Bann had a series of chances during the period where they had a man advantage. First Dowds saw a deft deflection go agonisingly wide, then his penalty corner effort was taken off the line by the defender and then Owen Magee saw the keeper save his reverse stick shot.
However in the fifteenth minute it was that man Dowds who again produced a bit of magic to set up the second goal for Banbridge. He brilliantly robbed the ball from the Kelburne defender, before cutting inside two other defenders and slipping the ball to Mark Campbell who unselfishly found Eugene Magee mid-circle. The Bann captain cleverly lifted the ball over the advancing keeper to score.
Bann continued to control possession with Kelburne finding it impossible to maintain any period of possession against the hard-working Banbridge team. The Scottish side were awarded a dubious penalty corner in the twenty sixth minute, but their routine came to nothing as Bann swiftly counter-attacked to again create another chance.
The third goal arrived courtesy of the best move of the match. Wright, Logan and McKee all combined down the left hand side with a series of one touch passes before the ball found its way to Bruce McCandless. His powerful run along the baseline, evading three defenders, saw him dummy the keeper and slot the ball home for his seventh goal in his last seven games.
More Bann goals were inevitable given the amount of pressure they were putting on the Kelburne goal. Bell saw a penalty corner effort superbly saved by the keeper before Jamie Wright did add that fourth goal. He collected the ball and went on a silky run into the Scottish circle before unleashing a thunderous high reverse stick effort which seemed to be going wide before hitting a Kelburne defenders stick and sailing high into the roof of the net.
A clinical performance from the Banbridge side that never let their Scottish counterparts settle into the game. In a must win game the locals produced the performance that ensured that they topped the group and almost certainly in the process guaranteed themselves entry into the top level Euro Hockey League for the 2016/17 season.
In the other group, Cardiff & Met Hockey Club secured top place courtesy of a nervy 1-1 draw against Slavia Prague from the Czech Republic. That result means that Banbridge will now play the Welsh side in the Final at 3pm on Monday.
Squad: Lennox, Logan, McKee, Peter Brown, Bell, McCandless, Dowds, Wright, Eugene Magee, Phillip Brown, Campbell, Mills, Beattie, Carlisle, McShane, Malcolmson, Owen Magee, Bingham