Higgins nets brace as Comrades see off Chimney Corner

Adam Gray is brought down just on the edge of the 18-yard line against Chimney Corner.
Adam Gray is brought down just on the edge of the 18-yard line against Chimney Corner.
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BALLYCLARE Comrades skipper, Ricky Higgins, led from the front with a two-goal blast in his side’s Championship 2 win on Saturday (December 29).

Further strikes by Kyle Agnew and substitute Gary Brown secured the emphatic 4-1 triumph at Dixon Park against Chimney Corner.

Former Corner striker, Johnny McClurg, who had scored five times in the previous three matches, failed to get on the scorecard against his former team-mates, and neither did Adam Gray who was also recruited from the Allen Park club.

In the absence of player-manager Eddie Hill, his assistants, Stuart McClean and Gary Bell, were in charge. With the exception of Higgins, who came in for Hill up front, the starting line-up was unchanged. Teenager Daniel Ellis, who has been starring with the Reserves, was in the squad for the first time.

Ballyclare monopolised play after drawing first blood in the 20th minute through Agnew, who forced Rogan to make a fine save moments later.

Higgins doubled the lead on the half-hour when he skilfully back-heeled the ball in to the net, following a well-rehearsed set-piece routine by Gerard McAlea and Simon McGowan.

Impressive left-sided midfielder Gray was disappointed when his thunderbolt crashed against the underside of the bar before being scrambled clear, but Higgins fared better in the 38th minute when he doubled his tally with a low diagonal shot across the keeper.

Seconds before the break, Chris Monteith and Gray brought the ball forward and Gray’s cross picked out McClurg, but his finishing effort was too high.

The third quarter was more evenly contested and Corner opened their account when Aaron Montgomery was penalised for apparently handling the ball, with Willigan netting from the spot.

This reverse was a wake-up call for the Reds, and McClurg, Gray and Higgins tested Rogan before Brown completed the rout nine minutes from time, when he stabbed the ball past Rogan from close range. Agnew then seemed all set to get his second when he rounded Rogan only to see his shot from a tight angle finishing in the side-netting.

Ballyclare Comrades sponsored by Solicitors Black Reid & Co: Flood; Reid, Pierce, Montgomery, Monteith; Agnew, McGowan, McAlea, Gray; Higgins (C), McClurg. Subs: Brown for McGowan 63’, Earley for Higgins 84’, Ellis for McAlea 81’ , Harbinson, Lunney.

Fans are reminded that Saturday’s Intermediate Cup tie against Islandmagee has a 1:30pm kick-off and will be played to a finish with extra-time and penalties, if required.

Comrades Reserves - still on course to retain their Ballymena Junior League Division 1 title - had no game at the weekend but they have an IFA Junior Cup fourth-round tie away to Harryville Homers on Saturday.