Ballyclare Comrades Reserves recovered in style from last week’s surprise first defeat of the season when they saw off reigning Ballymena and Provincial League Junior League Division 1 champions Antrim Rovers.
Leading scorer Jamie McMillan bagged a brace, with left-back Sandy McDermott making a scoring debut in Saturday’s 3-1 win, having been sidelined since picking up an injury in a pre-season friendly.
“Having lost our undefeated record last week the boys were up for this local derby against the team that pipped them for the title last season, and they started in top gear,” said manager Ronnie Burns.
“The damage was done in the first half hour, and although Rovers did their best to close us down, superior fitness told in the final quarter when we could easily have won by a wider margin.”
The hosts were penned in their own quarters at Antrim Forum during the opening 15 minutes, with their keeper making smart saves to deny Michael Haskins and Scott Cummings, but eventually he had to retrieve the ball from the net when McDermott’s drive from twenty-five yards flashed through a forest of legs in a crowded six yards area and into the net.
Three minutes later McMillan doubled the lead when he cut in from the left wing before scoring at the second attempt.
Instead of capitulating Rovers responded with a series of attacks, but with Kyle McCauley and Wharry solid at the heart of the defence Cooper’s goal was never in danger, and just before the interval Comrades went three up when McMillan powered a header home from a Haskins cross.
In the second half Rovers worked hard in midfield to close down the visitors and hopes of salvaging a point were revived in the 65th minute when one of their midfielders burst through to reduce the deficit.
However with Kyle Robinson’s speed down the right and Haskins’ trickery on the left stretching the defence to the limit, Comrades looked the more likely to score but Cummings uncharacteristically squandered a good chance.
In the closing moments McMillan was denied a hat-trick when the keeper made two brilliant reflex saves when a goal seemed on the cards.
Comrades Reserves: Cooper: C Woods, McCauley, Wharry, McDermott; Robinson, B Crowe, McClurg, Haskins; McMillan, Cummings. Subs: Burke, Gault, Todd, Fenton, Chalmers.
On Saturday the Reserves have a home game with Cookstown RBL. This one is scheduled for Threemilewater Park, but if weather conditions permit it could be staged at Dixon Park.