Joel Cooper sported the widest smile at Dixon Park on Wednesday evening when he scored the winner against his former club, Glenavon.
Snapped up last season by Comrades Reserves manager, Stephen Hughes, teenager Cooper rose rapidly through the ranks and was soon a regular in Ballyclare’s senior squad where he shone at left-back and left-midfield.
So it was a special occasion when he drilled in the 65th-minute winner to give the Reds a 2-1 win against the Irish Cup holders.
Gary Hamilton paid Comrades the compliment of fielding mainly his top team and they had the better of exchanges during the opening quarter, but failed to break down the home defence.
Andrew Doyle, signed the previous day from Nortel, excelled at several Glenavon set-pieces where he had sound support from Evan Forsythe, but it was the industrious Kyle Agnew who opened the scoring at the opposite end on 23 minutes with a fine solo strike.
In the absence of Chris Trussell and Ryan Dunlop, Agnew started up top alongside Mark Wilkinson, while Simon McGowan and Gerard McAlea were entrusted with the important central midfield positions.
Seconds before the break, Comrades fans were silenced when Glenavon got the equaliser but Cooper’s sole strike claimed a coveted scalp.
“I thought the lads were outstanding tonight - there was full commitment throughout the team and they were chuffed at having put one over on the Irish Cup holders, even though it was only a friendly,” said Reds’ boss, Eddie Hill.
“Even without our regular central defenders, Adam McCart and Chris Getty, we were solid at the back and Paddy Flood pulled off one excellent save to deny Gary Hamilton.”
He added: “Gareth Agnew, signed from the Ballymena United youth team, showed up promisingly at centre-half in a late cameo appearance.”
Ballyclare Comrades: Flood (c); Doherty, Doyle, Forsythe, Buckley; Smith, McAlea, McGowan, Cooper; Wilkinson, K. Agnew. Subs: Reid for Wilkinson, Simpson for McGowan, Brown for Smith, Simms for Cooper, G. Agnew for Forsythe.