Bangor's Montgomery reflects on play-off penalty heartache at Warrenpoint
Bangor manager Jeff Montgomery believes the Seasiders missed out on a place in the Premiership due to small margins.
Bangor lost Friday night’s promotion / relegation play-off to Warrenpoint Town on a penalty shoot-out. It was a heart-breaking night for the North Down club, who led the Championship title race for most of the season before eventually being passed by Carrick Rangers. The Seasiders also led 2-0 from the home leg, before losing by the same score-line in Warrenpoint.
Montgomery explained: “I said to the players, you’ve got to look at the amount of highs we’ve had since Garth Scates took over, particularly this season. It’s hard to think about things in that way when you’ve just lost a place in the Premiership on penalties, particularly when you consider we didn’t get the chance to play in the play-off last year, but there have been a lot of highs this year.
“What we’ve got to do now is learn from our mistakes and come back stronger. When you think about it, it’s small margins that make all the difference between playing in the Premiership and playing in the Championship next year, over both the 26 league games and the two play-off games.”
Bangor led Warrenpoint Town 2-0 after a comprehensive first leg victory at the Bangor Fuels Arena on Tuesday night. A first half own-goal from Stephen Moan set the Seasiders on their way, before Paul McDowell added a second in stoppage team.
Unfortunately for Bangor, it went wrong in the second leg at Milltown on Friday night. Warrenpoint got the ball rolling when Conor McDonald scored from inside the six-yard box. Bangor goalkeeper Darren Gibbons made a string of good saves, but centre-back Dermot McVeigh levelled the scores on aggregate with a powerful header from a 78th minute corner kick.
Both Bangor’s Eddie McCallion and Warrenpoint’s Daniel Hughes were sent off in extra time, before the game went to a penalty shoot-out.
Former Glentoran man John McGuigan scored Town’s first penalty before Mark Cooling saw his spot kick saved by Jonny Parr. The scores were level after Town’s Conor McDonald missed and Bangor’s Paul McDowell scored, before Mark Hughes and Grant Gardiner exchanged misses. Defender Dermot McVeigh gave Town a 2-1 shoot-out lead, before Andy Hall missed Bangor’s third spot kick of the night. It fell to the talented Stephen Hughes, who drilled the ball home, to keep Warrenpoint in the Premiership, and to condemn the Seasiders to Championship football for another year.
It’s been an incredible season for Bangor. They reached the final of the County Antrim Shield, the semi-finals of the League Cup and finished second in the league with 60 points. That’s six more than Institute won the division with last season.
Unfortunately the curse of the play-off struck again, as Bangor lost the promotion decider for the fifth time in their history. The disappointment was compounded with the news that top goal-scorer Jordan Forsythe has signed for Crusaders.
Jeff Montgomery said: “Jordan is a wonderful player and it was frustrating not to have him in the line-up for the two play-off games due to suspension. Who knows, he might have popped up and scored a crucial goal, but I don’t like to talk about individuals in that way, as we win and lose as a team.
“It’s a blow to lose him from our squad as he is a lad of tremendous calibre, but we wish him well.”
On a positive note, Bangor goalkeeper Darren Gibbons won the BT Sports Northern Ireland Football Writers’ Championship Player of the Month award for April, after keeping five clean sheets on the trot. Gibbons also made a number of superb saves on Friday night to keep Bangor in the game.
Montgomery said: “Darren has been magnificent since he came for Paul Cairnduff. He fully deserves the Writers’ award for his efforts last month. He was also wonderful against Warrenpoint.”