Curlett rescues a draw for Ballynure

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EXCEPT for a goal in the opening seconds and an equaliser in the final minute, there was little to get excited about in the pre-season friendly between Ballynure Old Boys and Grove United on Saturday.

There was a sensational start at Mallusk Playing Fields when Ballynure lost possession straight from the kick-off, and three passes later, the ball flashed past keeper Lee Singleton with barely 20 seconds on the watch.

Gary Burns’s lads took some time to recover from this early setback and Singleton was relieved to hear another scoring effort from a midfielder crash against the bar when a hesitant defence failed to clear its lines.

Thereafter both defences were on top, with Ballynure’s best effort coming from defender Simon Gibson who advanced for a corner but his effort from the edge of the box was gathered safely by the keeper.

Grove held the balance of play early in the second session, forcing Singleton to make a couple of smart saves before Glen Miskimmin fired wide at the opposite end following some fine approach play by Mark Curlett.

During the closing stages the Ballynure had territorial advantage, but that early strike seemed good enough to claim victory until the 90th minute, when Gareth Curlett touched home at the back post from a Josh McIlroy corner to secure the 1-1 draw.

Club president Michael Graham said: “It was a patchy performance and once again we were guilty of giving the ball away far too easily. On the positive side, we had fine performances from the Curlett brothers Gareth and Mark, while John Davey and Michael Duff were industrious in midfield.

“Manager Gary Burns is building up towards full strength, and we are looking forward with confidence to the start of the new season on August 11.”

Ballynure OB: Singleton; Penny, Gibson, G Curlett, Patterson; McIlroy, Duff, Davey, M Curlett; Miskimmin, Middleton. Subs: Hall, Cullen.

Ballynure’s next friendly will be a tough test against Nortel under former Ballynure star Paul Foy at the Factory Grounds.