Scott Cummings’ solitary strike settled the Ballymena Junior League Division 1 top of the table clash in favour of leaders Ballyclare Comrades Reserves.
Second placed Mallusk Athletic offered stern resistance at Antrim Forum, in a dour match but finished with nothing to show for their efforts.
That goal that secured the points came as early as the 9th minute, when Cummings darted in at the near post to connect with a Kyle Robinson cross and flick the ball in to the roof of the net
Although Ronnie Burns’ lads dominated possession they were unable to carve out a decent opening during the first half, during which neither Ross McKnight or his opposite number were tested, with a rocket from Greg McFaul that cleared the bar being Comrades’ best scoring effort.
The pattern continued after the break with the Wee Reds still pressing forward without an end product. Bobby Crowe and Ryan Burke were industrious in midfield, while Robinson and Sandy McDermott from the senior side made ground from time to time down the flanks, without ever really threatening a well organised defence.
Cummings, mobile as ever up front, always posed a threat but was unable to conjure up a second strike.
Assistant-manager Andrew Higginson said: “It was a cagey affair with neither team wanting to lose. We dominated possession and never looked like losing, but we were unable to get the cushion of a second goal. We had no stars, and there was no Man of the Match.
Comrades Reserves: McKnight; Davidson, Finn, Gault; Robinson, Crowe, Burke, McDermott; Cummings, McFaul. Subs: Fenton, Todd.
The Reserves have two fixtures remaining to complete their programme – against Woodlands and chief challengers Newington YC II.
With 10 games to play the north Belfast lads trail by 17 points and pose a serious threat. Their clash with Ronnie Burns’ side on Tuesday, May 5 at Dixon Park promises to be a blockbuster title decider.