Bell hails monster crowd as Banbridge delight home support against Saint Ger

Euro Hockey League
Pool C: Banbridge 2 (J McKee, D Ward) Saint Germain 0

Man of the match Matthew Bell hailed the incredible Havelock Park support as over 2,500 fans took in Banbridge’s 2-0 win over Saint Germain.

It means they need just a draw on Sunday against Royal Leopold to reach the KO16 phase of the competition for the first time.

And they were decent value for the result, holding at bay a French side that had looked sharp in front of goal a day earlier with Bell producing a masterclass in the centre of the park.

Speaking about the win, Bell said of the win: “We’ve set out all year to keep a clean sheet and thankfully today was the first time it happened. The support was unbelievable; guys came down in their numbers and were loud from minute one to minute 60. I can’t thank them enough.”

They got off to a great start with Jonny McKee going close on two occasions before breaking the deadlock when Owen Magee robbed the ball on the left flank and returned it to the centre. McKee was under pressure but showed enough strength to spin the ball into the goal.

Bann’s press was yielding dividends, putting the French side under pressure and earning good counter-attack chances. And they doubled their advantage with the big break closing in, Fraser Mills taking on a long corner and firing across goal with Dane Ward tipping in at the back post.

“The second goal really hit them,” Bell added. “They did come out all guns blazing and we had to weather the storm but the lads really pulled through today. They were always going to get a penalty corner here or there – or maybe a dodgy umpiring decision – but the lads came out with something extra.”

The second half saw Saint Germain fight back, making numerous good chances with Martin Genestet hitting the post while Gareth Lennox kept out three corners in a row.

Bann remained composed and kept it tight to hold on for a famous result that will surely bring back an equally large crowd for Sunday’s must win.

“We came in thinking about it one game at a time; one is out of the way and we just need to move on. Home support, home pitch, last game of the weekend. It’s really set up for us and hopefully the legs hold and we can come through again.”

Banbridge coach Mark Tumilty, meanwhile, was thrilled with his side’s efforts.

“I think we deserved it. Gareth [Lennox] made a few good saves but all in all I was pleased with how we managed the game and controlled it. Delighted.

“The crowd has been fantastic, the set-up has been fantastic and so the nerves were a concern before the match but the guys dealt with it. It gives us a great opportunity for tomorrow and that was the objective. For Irish ranking points, hopefully it also will do enough to keep two places in the EHL for next year.

“Some of the kids like Jake Rowe and Kyle Marshall to produce the hockey that they did along with Matthew Bell and Jonny McKee, it was outstanding. An excellent squad performance.

“2,500 people behind us tomorrow, anything can happen!”

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