Banbridge 4 HC Minsk (Belarus) 1

Banbridge secured a 4-1 victory over the Belarussian side in what was a must win game in the Eurohockey Champions Trophy in Glasgow. Goals from Jamie Wright and Fraser Mills along with a brace from Stephen Dowds earned the Bann side a handsome victory which also boosted their goal-difference in the tournament.
Bann welcomed Johnny McKee and Owen Magee into the squad after their late arrival due to University commitments and both were to play pivotal roles in the performance. From the start the younger Magee looked threatening and his run down the right and neat pullback found Bruce McCandless whose effort was saved by the keeper.
Only a minute later Bann had a glorious chance to open the scoring. Fraser Mills picked up the ball on halfway and the Belarussian defenders were unable to keep up with his surging run. He drove into the circle and rounded the keeper before unfortunately losing his footing before he could put the ball into the empty goal. At this stage Bann were controlling the game playing some beautiful swift flowing hockey which was causing the Minsk team issues.
Only twelve minutes had gone when Mark Campbell produced a sublime piece of skill on the edge of the circle to win a free hit. As their opponents protested Eugene Magee took a quick free and drove into the circle before forcing a good save from the goalkeeper.
Almost immediately and against the run of play Minsk took the lead. A surging run down the left from inside their own half resulted in the ball being sent into the circle from a reverse hit and the decisive touch by the sliding Minsk forward found the net.
A period of Minsk dominance then ensued and Matthew Bell was given a green card for a bad tackle to thwart another breakaway. Despite them having more of the ball inside Bann’s 25, Minsk didn’t have any shots on target during the eight minute spell.
Towards the end of the half Banbridge came back into the game and had a couple of good opportunities to get back on level terms. First Owen Magee’s mazy dribble won a free on the edge of the circle and from that older brother Eugene won Bann’s first penalty corner. However it was badly executed and never troubled the Minsk goalkeeper. Phillip Brown then had a surging run down the right but his pull back from inside the circle was deemed too high and another glorious chance was wasted.
The game was also scrappy in parts with a few green cards given out. Bann captain Eugene Magee was a receiptant of one of these for a clumsy tackle as his team went into the break a goal behind.
Bann, clearly driven by some harsh words at half time from coach Mark Tumilty, started the second half much better. Owen Magee’s left to right run in only the second minute saw his reverse stick effort saved by the keeper.
Owen Magee was prominent again a few minute later as Bann got themselves back on level terms. He beautifully stole the ball midway inside the Belarussian half and fed his older brother. He forced his way past a couple of defenders before delivering a reverse stick centre which was met by the sliding Fraser Mills who sent the ball into the goal.
And a minute later Bann took the lead. The goal owed much to the endeavour of Ross Beattie. His surging run down the left past a number of defenders into the circle and his shot was saved by the Keeper. Bruce McCandless picked up the rebound and before he could shoot his stick was chopped and a penalty stroke awarded. Stephen Dowds duly dispatched the stroke despite the best efforts of the Belarussian goalkeeper who had delayed the taking of it with plenty of gamesmanship.
Indeed it was Dowds at this point who was the catalyst for most of Bann’s good play as they seized control of the game. His speed and incisive runs were causing plenty of problems for the Minsk team. Owen Magee also continued his fine game by sending a speculative upright reverse effort narrowly wide.
Banbridge continued his search for the decisive third goal. A break by Brad Logan saw him find Johnny McKee on the baseline in the circle and his attempt to lift the ball over the advancing keeper was saved. The goal finally came in the eighteenth minute of the half. A long overhead by Bell was taken by Campbell and his centre pass found Wright who showed immaculate composure to coolly slot the ball past the keeper on the reverse.
Minsk did occasionally threaten and won their first penalty corner with ten minutes left to play. But Gareth Lennox produced a superb glove save diving low to his right hand side.
However Bann finished the game strongly knowing that goals may play a crucial part in the tournament. Dowds created a glorious opportunity but the final pass let him down when Bann had numbers inside the Minsk circle. But he made up for it moments later when he scored Bann’s fourth. His surging run saw a penalty corner awarded and despite the routine not working properly Dowds came to the rescue when he took the ball and drove left before firing a low reverse stick shot past the keeper. That goal sealed an impressive win for Banbridge on a glorious day in Glasgow.
In the other game in Bann’s group hosts Kelburne again came from behind to grab a draw against Swiss side Rotweiss Wettingen 1-1. This result leaves Banbridge top of the group after two games and in with a good chance of advancing to the final if they achieve a positive result in their final group game on Sunday.

Squad: Lennox, Logan, McKee, Peter Brown, Bell, McCandless, Dowds, Wright, Eugene Magee, Phillip Brown, Campbell, Mills, Beattie, Carlisle, McShane, Malcolmson, Owen Magee, Bingham