Three second-half goals in seven minutes sparked the Ballyclare Comrades – Donegal Celtic match in to life, but it ended in a 2-2 draw at Dixon Park.
Strikes by Samuel McIlveen and Andrew Simpson seemed to have secured the Championship 1 points for Eddie Hill’s lads, but a double by former Comrades striker, Ryan Dunlop, salvaged a precious point for Celtic in a 2-2 draw.
During the first half the Reds squandered several fine scoring opportunities, the first as early as the second minute when Eoin Kane and Gary Brown had their close-range efforts saved by McAuley.
McAuley, who was much busier than Paddy Flood at the opposite end, pulled off a fine diving save to deny Joel Cooper, who later fired over the bar in the 25th minute.
On the stroke of half-time skipper Adam McCart almost got the goal Comrades’ supremacy deserved, but his header was just too high.
In the 65th minute McIlveen broke the deadlock, when he bundled the ball over the line from Cooper’s near-post corner.
Spurred into action, Celtic were back on level terms five minutes later when Dunlop fired into the net, but almost straight from the restart Simpson regained the lead when he pounced on a rebound after Cooper’s shot had been parried.
Now it was end to end action. Flood was glad to see Todd’s effort crash against the post, before Dunlop equalised from the spot six minutes from time after Evan Forsythe had brought down Hughes in the box.
Both teams went all out for the winner in the dying moments, with a McCart header going wide, while Flood denied Dunlop a hat-trick with a smart save.
“It was another two points thrown away,” said reds’ manager, Eddie Hill. “We could have been two up in the first 10 minutes, but once again we failed to put away our chances after outplaying the opposition.”
Ballyclare Comrades: Flood; C Reid, Forsythe (Doherty), McCart (C), Buckley; G Brown, McIlveen, McGowan, Kane (Duffin), Cooper, Simpson. Subs not used B Browne, A Hill, Simms.
Loughgall, who trail Ballyclare Comrades by two points just above the drop zone, will be at Dixon Park on Saturday for what is a virtual six-pointer for both sides (3 pm).