A BRACE of Banbridge Town second-half penalties paved the way for a win against Ballyclare Comrades on Saturday.
Fans were treated to a five-goal thriller at Crystal Park where the home team came from behind to take the Championship 2 points on a 3-2 scoreline.
Manager Eddie Hill had to make several changes with goalkeeper Paddy Flood, defender Aaron Montgomery and midfielders Gerard McAlea and Adam Gray coming in to replace Allen Huxley, Evan Forsythe, Johnny McClurg and Gary Brown.
The early form suggested that Comrades had brought their Cup tie momentum to Banbridge, when midfielder Gray had the ball in the net in the opening minute, but an offside had been spotted.
Twelve minutes later home keeper McAllister, who was much busier than Flood, did well to hold on to a rocket from full-back Craig Reid.
Ross Earley celebrated in the 25th minute when he scored his first goal for the club with a crisp, low drive which beat McAllister and a defender on the line.
Flood had a let-off on the half-hour when he was beaten in a race for possession by O’Neill, who somehow managed to miss the target from the edge of the box with the goal gaping.
There was excitement at both ends in the closing minutes of the first half. After Kyle Agnew had done well to cut the ball back from the by-line to McAlea, the midfielder’s shot was parried by the keeper who recovered smartly to block the rebound also from the same player.
Seconds later the ball was in the net at the opposite end when Porter’s snap-shot flashed just inside the upright.
So, the first 45 minutes that had promised so much for Comrades ended disappointingly with the scores level.
The Reds seemed to go off the boil in the second session with the locals too often winning the second ball, so that play tended to be in visiting territory.
All hopes of a Reds victory went down the plug hole when two penalties were conceded and scored.
First Flood knocked over an opponent when trying to get the ball, and McCartan converted from the spot.
In the 68th minute McCartan did the business again when entrusted with the penalty after O’Neill had been fouled by Darren Doherty.
With 20 minutes remaining, the Comrades went all out to get back in to contention, but Simon McGowan’s 90th-minute strike from 20 yards came too late to salvage a point.
This is one that Ballyclare players will want to forget, but let’s hope it was only a blip, and that normal service will be resumed on Saturday when Glebe Rangers come to Dixon Park (3pm kick-off).
Ballyclare Comrades: Flood; Reid, Doyle, Montgomery, Monteith; Earley, McGowan, McAlea, Gray; R Higgins (C), Agnew. Subs: Doherty for Reid 58’, McDowell for McAlea 78’, E Hill for Gray 66’, McAllister goalkeeper) and Harbinson.
Fans are reminded that the Steel & Sons Cup semi-final against Glentoran II will be played at Seaview on Friday, November 30.
Comrades Reserves were scheduled to play FC Whiteabbey from the Ballymena Junior League Division 3 in the second round of the Linda Welshman Memorial Cup, but this one was postponed.