Ballynure Old Boys came off second best against Newtowne in the top of the table clash, but they still retain the Ballymena Intermediate Division number one spot.
The Limavady lads turned round one up and then consolidated their advantage in the second session to run out 4-2 winners.
Despite the defeat, Gary Burns’ lads are still two points ahead of Magherafelt Sky Blues, but Newtowne pose a more serious threat in third, four points behind with a game in hand.
The challengers were two up in the opening 20 minutes. After opening the scoring with an uncontested header from a corner, they doubled the lead from the penalty spot when the referee punished a pushing incident.
For the remainder of the first half the hosts were mainly on the back foot and full-back Barry Penny deservedly reduced the deficit when he drilled the ball into the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
Inspired the return of striker Ricky Higgins, who came off the bench on the half hour to replace the injured Robert Watson, the reigning champions exerted some pressure, but Josh McIlroy and David Higgins were off target.
The pattern continued in the second session with Ballynure having the major share of possession, but rather against the trend of play Newtowne restored their two goals’ advantage, when their striker cut in between two defenders to drive past Ryan Stewart.
In the 75th minute Paul McIntyre raised visiting hopes when he latched on to a Michael Duff pass, cut inside and rocketed the ball in to the roof of the net, for the best goal of the afternoon.
Assistant-manager Andy Forsythe, who was standing in for Burns, introduced subs Ryan McIlwaine and Daniel Ellis and opted for three at the back in an attempt to salvage a point. McIntyre, McIlroy and McIlwaine all tried in vain to get the equaliser, and then they were caught out by a quick home counter-attack that produced the killer fourth goal.
”We dominated the first half, but still turned round trailing 2-1, after having conceded two soft goals,” said Forsythe. “Overall, we played well enough, but we must learn to concentrate better. Despite the defeat we are still on course to deliver back-to-back titles.”
Ballynure OB: Stewart; Penny, Robinson, M Leckey, M Curlett; D Higgins, Duff (C), D Leckey, McIntyre; McIlroy, Watson. Subs: R Higgins, Ellis, G Curlett, McIlwaine, Forsythe.
On Saturday Ballynure are away to Desertmartin in the quarter-final of the O’Gorman Cup.