BACK-TO-BACK Championship 2 defeats during the Easter holidays all but ended Ballyclare Comrades’ fading promotion dreams.
After turning round one up against Lurgan Celtic on Monday afternoon at Knockramer Park, the Reds flattered to deceive and ended on the wrong side of a 2-1 scorecard.
Compared to Saturday’s starting line-up Craig Reid, Stuart McCullough, Keith Armstrong and Mark McClelland replaced Aaron Montgomery, Paul Harbinson, Johnny McClurg and Ronnie Burns, while young David Higgins - Ricky’s brother - had his first action on the pitch after having been on the bench a few times.
Comrades started promisingly with midfielder Simon McGowan firing just wide in the 2nd minute, but thereafter play was rather untidy with neither Paddy Flood or his opposite number Fox having nothing more than a couple of routine saves to make.
After only 26 minutes centre-half McCullough limped off injured with Montgomery coming on a straight replacement at the heart of the defence.
The game came to life in the 38th minute when McClelland stabbed the ball in to the net after the initial effort by player/manager Eddie Hill had rebounded off the post.
In the 44th minute there was a scare at the visiting end when Mackin went to ground after tangling with Glenn Pierce, but the referee ignored appeals for a penalty.
The scores were level again three minutes in to the second half when Mackin ghosted in at the back post to turn the ball past Flood, and profiting from this early strike the Wee Hoops maintained the momentum with play being mainly in Comrades territory for a time.
In the 63rd minute they were gifted a soft winner when Reid’s rash challenge resulted in a penalty that O’Hara drilled confidently in to the net.
In a double substitution McClurg and Higgins replaced Irvine and E Hill, but the home defence held out to complete a league double over the Ballyclare outfit.
With only four fixtures remaining Comrades have lost ground at the top, with Knockbreda and Coagh United now favourites to claim the two automatic promotion places on offer.
Ballyclare Comrades sponsored by Solicitors Reid Black & Co: Flood; Reid, Pierce, McCullough (Montgomery 26’), A Hill; Irvine (McClurg 72’), Armstrong, McGowan, Simms (Capt.); E Hill (Higgins 72’), McClelland. Subs: not used Harbinson, Burns.
On Saturday Comrades will be off to Castledawson where league points will be at stake against Moyola Park.