Burns hails Higgins’ impact in victory over Brantwood

Ricky Higgins, seen here playing for Ballyclare Comrades.
Ricky Higgins, seen here playing for Ballyclare Comrades.
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Ballynure Old Boys chalked up their ninth win on the bounce and enhanced their pole Ballymena Premier League position with a win against 10-man Brantwood at Skegoneill Avenue.

The Brants shot themselves in the foot by having a player sent off following an off-the-ball incident as early as the ninth minute, but despite being short-handed for almost the entire match they went into the final quarter 3-2 up.

Lasting the pace better, Gary Burns’ lads secured the 4-3 win courtesy of late strikes by David Officer and Ricky Higgins (inset) who completed his hat-trick.

In this top-of-the-table clash Brantwood got off to a flyer with Stephen Bainbridge scoring inside two minutes. Mark McCann doubled their lead with 25 minutes on the clock.

Ballynure pulled one back just before the break when Officer jinked past three opponents before off-laying to Higgins who made no mistake.

In the 65th minute Higgins levelled the scores when he had a simple tap-in after the keeper spilled a cross, but moments later the 10 men regained the lead following a goalmouth scramble.

The decision to go for broke and move Leckey forward to form a three-man attack proved decisive.

In the 80th minute Higgins made it 3-3 with a toe-poke finish, and with time running out Higgins threaded the ball through for Officer to dink the ball over the keeper as he dived at the striker’s feet.

“The lads showed a lot of character when they recovered from going two down early on against a team of Brantwood’s calibre,” said Burns.

“This was a massive win, for although Brantwood trailed us by 11 points, they had four matches in hand. It was one that we dare not lose.

“Ricky Higgins was superb at centre-forward; his distribution and finishing were spot-on. It was his best performance since joining us a year ago from Ballyclare Comrades.”

Ballynure OB: Hughes; Penny, Leckey, G Curlett, M Curlett, S Duff, Officer, Robinson, McGreevy; Higgins, Burns. Subs: M Duff, Forsythe, McIlroy, Watson.

Saturday’s match: Killymoon Rangers (h).