BALLYCLARE Comrades Reserves spurned the opportunity to extend their lead at the top of the Ballymena League’s Junior Division 1 table when they lost 2-1 to Mallusk Athletic.
Having defeated Athletic earlier in the season, the reigning champions had been tipped to complete the double, but on their own patch at Belfast Royal Academy grounds the hosts came out on top.
Mallusk had to come from behind after Aaron Lindsay gave Ballyclare the lead early in the second half.
“We can’t complain; the better team won,” Reds’ boss Jonty Watson admitted.
“I regard this defeat as a wake-up call, and we will have to show much more commitment if we are to retain the title.
“Our main rivals, Tobermore, had no league fixture and a win would have stretched our lead to seven points, so we missed out badly.”
After a scoreless first session, Watson switched to a 4-3-3 with Jamie McTaggart moving up front alongside Jonathan Boyd and Lindsay. It paid off immediately when Lindsay opened the scoring with a tap-in after Boyd’s effort had been parried.
Keeper Warren McAllister and his defenders had to withstand a series of corners and in the 80th minute Mallusk’s Joe Ward made the breakthrough when converted with a low shot.
In a final throw of the dice, Daniel Ellis was added to the Comrades attack and he had two headers saved before Athletic’s Phil Brown struck the killer blow two minutes from time to take all three points.
Ballyclare Comrades Reserves: McAllister; Lynch (c), Lunney, Wilson, Officer; McTaggart, McAvoy, M Boyd, Lindsay; J Boyd, Spence. Subs: McCallen, Stranaghan, Ellis.