BALLYNURE Old Boys moved in to pole position in the Ballymena and Provincial Imtermediate League with a draw against Newtowne at Limavady Showgrounds.
After turning round one down, Ronnie Burns rammed home the equaliser that secured the 1-1 draw in a closely contested affair on Saturday.
Manager Gary Burns’ decision to make a double substitution at half time proved to be a master stroke.
When Craig Singleton and John Davey came on to replace Terry Lyness and David Hall, they began to click, and in the end could have collected all three points.
During the opening quarter the hosts were in complete control, forcing Lee Singleton to make several smart saves, while Mark Leckey and Paul McFarland stood out at the heart of the defence.
Eventually the pressure paid off when the home winger set it up for a strike partner to open the scoring with a shot in to the far bottom corner.
Ballynure’s best scoring opportunity fell to Lyness after having been put through by Burns, but his finishing effort was off target.
Approaching the interval Newtowne almost doubled their lead when Singleton was left exposed, but he managed to deflect the ball for a corner off his legs.
The second session belonged to the ‘Nure lads, and the home keeper did well to keep out a Burns header from a Simon McGreevy cross.
Moments later Burns fared better when he stabbed in the equaliser after substitute Craig Singleton had done well to dispossess an opponent.
In the closing stages play was mainly in home territory, and in the 80th minute a Michael Duff volley rebounded off the post.
Duff was denied again when his header beat the keeper but was hacked off the line by a defender, and the locals were glad to hear the final whistle.
Ballynure’s president, Michael Graham, said: “The point was enough to leapfrog us over Dunloy and Magherafelt Sky Blues to top spot for the first time this season.
“The experience and class of midfielder Stuart Galbraith and striker Ronnie Burns was a vital factor and earned these two the Men of the Match award.”
Ballynure OB: L. Singleton; Penny, McFarland, Leckey, Curlett; Hall, Galbraith, Duff, McGreevy; Lyness, Burns. Subs: C. Singleton, Davey, Caldwell.
East Antrim’s Match of the Day on Saturday will be the local derby between Ballynure and Rathfern Rangers who clash at Mossley in the third round of the Irish Cup.