Bangor draw with Carrick to keep themselves well ahead
With two senior semi-finals on the horizon and a seven-point lead at the top of the Belfast Telegraph Championship, Bangor are enjoying their most successful run since the 90s glory days of Mark Glendinning and Paul Byrne.
With Tuesday night's incredible 4-2 extra time comeback League Cup win over Crusaders fresh in everyone's mind, there was a good crowd at Clandeboye Park to witness the top-of-the-table clash between the Seasiders and Carrick Rangers. On this occasion, Garth Scates' men were only able to secure a 1-1 draw, but with promotion rivals Ards, Larne and Knockbreda all dropping points, it was hardly a poor result.
Bangor took the lead mid-way through the half when Jordan Forsythe tapped home a Dean Youle knock-down, but Kyle Cherry equalised not long before the break by heading home a corner-kick. With no goals in the second half, Bangor held on to their seven point lead while Carrick sit in sixth.
With the club confirming that they've applied for a Championship Licence, the North Down club are now well positioned to claim promotion to the Premiership. It's all a far cry away from this time two years ago, when they were rock bottom of Championship One and headed for relegation to the third tier for the first time in their history.
After Garth Scates replaced Frankie Wilson as manager, Bangor went on a run that saw them avoid the drop, culminating in a crucial final day victory over Tobermore United. Dean Youle's late goal secured Bangor's second tier status.
Incredibly, many of the players who were almost relegated in 2013 are now part of this much more successful Bangor squad.
Manager Scates said: “When we came in, I think we were seven points adrift at the bottom of the table. I knew we had a good group of players, so we decided the formation we were going to play and tailored our tactics to suit the players that we had. Then we just battled and battled, and eventually we stayed up with almost the last kick of the ball.
“Since then, a few guys have left and a few guys have come in, but we've still got the likes of Andy Morrow, Andy Long and Dean Youle. The players we've brought in have made a difference, but I've found you don't have to sign from Premiership clubs to find quality players. William McBurney came in from Ards Rangers and Barry Walsh came in from Killyleagh.
“The important thing about bringing new players in, is that they fit in and get on with the other players at the club. They're all mates in our changing room and I think that helps.”
Reflecting on their season to date, Scates said: “We're doing well. The thing people might not realise is that we have a few injuries, so we're down to the bare bones. Against Crusaders I was on the bench, and I really had no intention of coming on.
“But that's part and parcel of playing at this level. You have to run with a small squad as there isn't the funds to do anything else. I'm very pleased with what we've achieved so far.”
Bangor have two semi-finals to come in December. On Tuesday 2, they will travel to Seaview to face Crusaders in the last four of the Toals County Antrim Shield. Then on Tuesday 16, they will go to Solitude to play Cliftonville in the semis of the WASP League Cup. If the Seasiders can continue their unbeaten league run, they will be playing the likes of the Crues and the Reds every week next season.
Belfast Telegraph Digital