Mark Conn’s winner against Mallusk Athletic clinched the Ballymena Junior League Division 1 title for Ballyclare Comrades Reserves on Wednesday evening.
This local derby attracted a good crowd to Dixon Park, where the Reds’ 2-1 win leap-frogged them over rivals Castle Star and into pole position to complete a hat-trick of titles.
Ironically Jonty Watson, the manager who guided the Reserves to title wins in 2012 and 2013, was at the Mallusk helm, but he was unable to prevent his successor, Stephen Hughes, from collecting more silverware.
“Jonty and I get on well together, so there was no needle in this match,” said Hughes. “The lads battled well and got the win we needed to clinch the title,” he added.
Tyler McMaster broke the deadlock from close range on the half-hour when he got on the end of Joel Cooper’s in-swinging corner.
Three minutes later the scores were level again when a Mallusk forward ran through unopposed, after central defender, Dean McAllister, pulled up with a hamstring problem.
But when Daniel Ellis was fouled in the box on 66 minutes, Conn stepped forward to score the decisive goal from the spot.
Five minutes from time Watson’s lads almost put the Reds’ celebrations on hold, when only a stunning reflex save by Jonah Nicholl prevented Mallusk from salvaging a point.
Ballyclare Comrades Reserves: Nicholl; Crowe, Rainey (C), McAllister (Getty 33), Cooper (Thompson 45); McTaggart (Higginson 75), Dougan, Todd, McMaster; Ellis, Conn.
On Saturday the Reserves complete their programme when they entertain Carnmoney at Mossley.