BALLYCLARE Comrades Reserves reached their second cup final of the season when they defeated Sport & Leisure Swifts II in the semi-final of the Canada Trophy.
Having previously qualified for the final of the Linda Welshman Memorial Cup, Jonty Watson’s lads could still finish treble winners, as they also continue at the summit of the Ballymena Junior League Division 1 table.
In order to retain the title they may have to win both matches this week when they travel to Cookstown Olympic on Tuesday (May 7) followed by a trip to Tobermore on Thursday (May 9).
In the Canada Trophy tie on Saturday afternoon at Threemilewater Park the Wee Reds trailed for the first hour, but in a storming finish strikes by Jonathan Boyd, Mark Conn and Harry Spence secured the 3-1 win.
The Reds were pre-match favourites against Junior League Division 3 opponents, but it was the Belfast side who opened the scoring in the 12th minute.
The hosts were limited to half-chances which Conn, Spence and Daniel Ellis were unable to convert, so they turned round one down.
A shrewd half-time substitution by Watson turned the tie in his side’s favour, with Jamie McTaggart and Boyd, replacing Ricky MacAuley and Ellis. The introduction of two attack-minded players ensured the second session was played mainly in visiting territory, but they had to wait until the 59th minute before drawing level through Boyd, who tucked the ball into the bottom corner, after skipper Pod Lynch and McTaggart had ripped open the defence.
The youthful Swifts team continued to battle, but conceded a second goal in the 80th minute, when a Lynch cross found Aaron Lindsay lurking at the back post, where he squared unselfishly for Conn to apply the finishing touch.
The rampant Reds made doubly sure of a place in the final five minutes from time, when Spence picked up a Lynch pass and rifled the ball in to the roof of the net for the most spectacular goal of the afternoon.
“Although Swifts are from the third division, I thought that they were one of the best teams we have played this season,” said manager Watson.
“They were a young side and they chased and harried all afternoon, giving us little time to settle on the ball. I was particularly pleased to see Jonathan Boyd getting on to the scorecard on his return after a lengthy ankle injury. His first touch was spot-on, before coolly beating the keeper when presented with a half-chance.
“Skipper Pod Lynch at right-back proved to be an influential leader, with all three goals emanating from his passes.
“We complete our league programme this week, and Thursday’s clash with our only rivals, Tobermore, will be a virtual cup final, with us probably needing a point to secure back-to-back league titles.”
Ballyclare Comrades Reserves: McAllister; Lynch (C), Pierce, Lunney, Officer; MacAuley, Spence, McCallen, Lindsay; Conn, Ellis. Subs: Boyd, Rainey, McTaggart, Wilson.