Bangor Seconds confirmed they will finish in a very creditable sixth place in the Junior League One on Saturday, despite losing 2-1 in a tight game away to Cookstown.
Overall it has been a hugely successful first season at this level for the Seconds and one the entire team can quite rightly be very proud of.
But it could have been even better on Saturday if they had just managed to get something from their final game of the season in Cookstown.
Once again, Bangor travelled with a severely weakened team for a variety of reasons. This consistent problem and a constantly changing team has made it very difficult to pick up points on the road.
However, like the Banbridge away game a month before, Bangor’s effort could not be faulted and they were perhaps unlucky to travel home empty handed.
The home side started the stronger and took an early lead when a deflected chance left Sam Moore helpless in goal. But Bangor also had their chances despite a disjointed first half performance. Matthew Armstrong-Sanchez had two good opportunities and Simon Hunter had the ball in the net only for the ‘goal’ to be ruled out for a high ball.
With Cookstown having more of the ball Bangor had to work extremely hard defensively and the midfield of Ryan Garland, James Mottashaw and Mark Lappin put in a tremendous amount of energy to protect their defence.
Cookstown may have had the better of the first half but Bangor turned it around in the second. They dealt much more comfortably with the home side’s attacks and then countered them with the pace of Adam Watson. Youngsters Calvin Alfred and Jack Riordan shared duties at left back and continued to show much promise.
Hunter was finding space at inside left and it was no surprise when Bangor scored from that area. As he has done hundreds, if not thousands of times, over the years, Lappin found Hunter peeling out to the wing, he burst past his man and bundled the ball between the advancing goalkeeper and the near post to make it 1-1.
Bangor then had the chances to snatch a lead. Hunter and Armstrong-Sanchez both had opportunities and Andrew Creane also came close. But when the goal did come it was at the other end and once again it was a deflected effort that Moore could do nothing about.
In the closing minutes Bangor did put more pressure on the Cookstown goal and could have snatched a draw at the death but the Cookstown goalkeeper was in determined form and they held on for the 2-1 win.
It was perhaps a disappointing end to a very pleasing season but the game was a welcome reminder of the areas the Seconds can still improve on for next year. Getting the strongest possible team out every week must be a start and picking up more points away from home will also help tremendously in warding off any potential ‘second season syndrome’.
But for now the Seconds can relax and reflect on an excellent seven months’ work in Junior League One.