Spa United’s hopes of Premier Division survival got a real shot in the arm on Sunday - but have Bridge United suffered at their expense?
Sean Power’s stunning second half strike saw the Johnstown men - who went down 5-0 to Newpark last week - battle back to get a deserved point at a chilly Goresbridge.
On reflection, it was a game Bridge could (and possibly should) have won. However, Spa, and goalkeeper Christopher Leahy in particular, didn’t deserve to go home empty-handed.
The netminder had a big say in the draw, denying Bridge from the penalty spot. Not once, but twice!
Already in front, the hosts could have taken a huge step towards their first home win of the season when Dean Broaders was tripped in the box three minutes from half-time.
Dusting himself down, Broaders took the resulting penalty, tucking a low shot towards the bottom right corner - but Leahy got down smartly to beat the ball out, then sprang to his feet to collect the looping rebound.
In a game where both sides knew that three points would go a long way at the season’s end, it wasn’t a surprise to see the teams go chasing for quick goals. Spa had the best of the early chances, Kieran Grehan setting up Conor Tobin with a perfect pass, but although he did well to turn inside his marker he blasted his 12th minute shot over the bar.
Bridge began to work their way into the game after that, Nathan West and Michael Doyle testing the waters with teasing crosses, but it didn’t take long to turn that threat into the opening goal.
James Bolger was the provider, launching a 23rd minute attack from deep in the Bridge defence. His telling ball was picked up by Dean Broaders, who spun the last defender and tore into the box, pausing only to clip a confident shot inside the far left post.
The hosts were on top after that goal, but couldn’t turn it into a second strike. They had a great chance to do just that on the half hour, when Mick Brennan used his pace to keep a fast ball in play on the right.
Rounding the defender Brennan squared the ball to Broaders, but he dragged his shot wide of the far post.
Spa regained their composure after that, driving at the hosts in an effort to get back into the game. Sean Power brought a good save from Aidan Hynes in the 33rd minute, the ’keeper getting down well to make a swift stop at his near post.
Hynes was at it again a few minutes later, staying big to deny Conor Tobin after James Whelan headed Mark Webster’s free his way. Pouncing on the edge of the six-yard box Tobin stabbed the ball towards the net, but Hynes made a vital block.
It was his opposite number, Leahy, who impressed late in the half with that penalty save - but he did even better early in the second half.
Still one up, Bridge had another chance to double their advantage from the spot when Leahy fouled Broaders after a marauding run 20 minutes into the new half.
Broaders went the opposite way with this kick, aiming for the top left corner, but Leahy made a spectacular flying save, finger-tipping the ball on to the bar and catching it before it hit the ground.
That save spurred Spa on to even greater lengths, giving them the drive to make the last quarter their own. Aidan Hynes had to look lively to turn Mark Webster’s lofted 72nd minute shot out for a corner, while Conor Tobin’s close range sidefoot shot flash past the wrong side of the post.
Those misses mattered little, as Power proved with his 77th minute equaliser. Sparked by Kieran Grehan’s break from the centre, when Power picked up play on the left he had nothing but goal on his mind.
Working his way back inside, Power kept his eye fixed on the top right corner of the net. When he found the angle he went for it, getting his reward with a sweetly-struck shot that hit the target.
That goal took the sting out of Bridge, who could have been left flattened altogether it wasn’t for Hynes. The ’keeper saved his side a point in stoppage time, getting down at his right post to turn Power’s point-blank bullet strike out for a corner and deny the visitors a dramatic win.
Bridge United A: Aidan Hynes, Kevin Davitt (Paul Murphy, 81 mins), Tom Whitley, Nathan West (Murty Broaders, 71 mins), Paddy Bambrick, James Bolger, Mick Brennan, Michael Doyle, Dean Broaders, Sean Murphy (Michael Moloney, 89 mins), Martin Bambrick.
Spa United: Christopher Leahy, Michael Carroll, Stephen McCarthy, Conor Tobin, Martin Dermody (Brandon Phelan, 69 mins), Shea Burke, Jonathan Ryan, Kieran Grehan (Jason Dermody, 87 mins), James Whelan, Sean Power, Mark Webster.
Referee: Ollie Falsey.