Rovers edge past ‘Wee Reds’ to clinch title

Ballymena League assistant-secretary, Jane McIlrath presents Ballyclare Comrades Res captain Chris McIlwaine with Junior Division One runners-up trophy. INLT 17-914-CON
Ballymena League assistant-secretary, Jane McIlrath presents Ballyclare Comrades Res captain Chris McIlwaine with Junior Division One runners-up trophy. INLT 17-914-CON

Throughout the season the battle for Ballymena Junior League Division 1 supremacy has been between Ballyclare Comrades Reserves and Antrim Rovers, and in a thrilling finish ten man Rovers clinched the title by a single goal.

Defences were on top at Threemilewater Park for the decider, so that scoring opportunities were at a premium, but the Rovers keeper pulled off the save of the day approaching half time.

A neat link-up between David McCullough and Nathan Stranaghan brought the ball in to the penalty area, where Mark Conn turned his marker and drilled the ball towards the bottom corner of the net, but the keeper flung himself across his line to finger-tip the ball round the post.

Rovers had the edge during the third quarter, and Nicholl was glad to see two efforts rebound off the bar. while his opposite number had a let-off when a Stranaghan shot slipped through his hands, but the ball went behind for a corner.

Rovers were reduced to ten men in the 70th minute when one of their substitutes was on for only a few minutes before being red carded, but they overcame this handicap to deliver the killer punch with twelve minutes left on the watch.

A long throw-in caused a scramble in the six yards area, where the ball deflected off the unfortunate Craig Todd in to his own net, to ensure that the title was on its way to Antrim.

Ballyclare Comrades Reserves: Nicholl; CJ McIlwaine (C), Todd, McAllister, Hill; McTaggart, McCullough, R McIlwaine, McMaster; Conn, Stranaghan. Subs: Thompson, Davidson, Williams, Crowe.