THE tension, excitement and drama in Tuesday evening’s Championship 2 clash between Ballyclare Comrades and Banbridge Town was encapsulated in the final 15 minutes, ending with Comrades notching an injury-time winner.
With Town clinging on to their one-goal lead, and Comrades’ promotion push appearing to be in the process of stalling, Chris Shimmon bagged a late match-winning brace for a 2-1 win.
Those goals sent the home fans streaming out of Dixon Park with smiles on their faces, and took the former Bangor striker’s tally to an impressive 13 in eleven starts.
Manager Eddie Hill made no starting changes from the side that thrashed Sport & Leisure Swifts, but Johnny McClurg and Adam Gray returned to get places on the bench.
Banbridge came to Ballyclare hoping to complete a league double and in the early stages they were on top without troubling Paddy Flood.
Visiting keeper Morley-Hillen had to make the first notable save in the 20th minute to keep out one of Andy Simms’ trademark free-kicks, and moments later Simms tested the keeper again.
‘Bridge were well in the game and only a last-ditch tackle by Kyle Buckley prevented Grant from scoring, but in their next attack they registered in bizarre circumstances.
Flood and centre-back Even Forsythe collided when attempting to make a clearance; both fell to the ground leaving O’Neill with the simple task of stroking the ball into the net.
Two minutes later the visiting goal had a double let-off. First Shimmon headed against the post from a Simms corner, then he pounced on the rebound and fired against the post again with the keeper wrong-footed.
Just before the interval Forsythe limped off to be replaced by Chris Getty, and in the second session Comrades began to get the better of exchanges.
In the 66th minute McClurg, who had replaced Gerard McAlea, came close with a header, but 15 minutes from time Shimmon gave the Reds a lifeline when he got on to the end of a Brown cross and nodded firmly into the net.
Comrades went all out for a winner with Gray replacing Higgins to reinforce the attack, and McClurg was unfortunate not to get his name on the scorecard when his drive struck the angle of the woodwork.
When the game drifted in to added time it was nail-biting time in the home dugout, but there was rejoicing when Shimmon delivered the fatal blow in the 93rd minute, rising above the defenders to connect with another pin-point Simms corner and planted his header well out of the reach of the keeper.
Ballyclare Comrades: Flood; Monteith, Doyle, Forsythe, Buckley; Brown, McGowan, McAlea, Simms; Higgins (c), Shimmon.
Subs: Getty for Forsythe 43’, McClurg for McAlea 64’, Gray for Higgins 84’, Reid, Wilkinson.
On Saturday Comrades aim to complete a hat-trick of home wins at the expense of Queen’s University.