After drawing first blood against Lurgan Celtic at Dixon Park, Ballyclare Comrades slumped to their first home league defeat of the season.
“After the match all the talk was about refereeing decisions rather than football,” fumed manager David Dorrian. “Several decisions went against us and long after the dressing rooms had been vacated the referee was still in deep consultation with the assessor, David Malcolm,” he asserted.
Dorrian had the luxury of having his top two strikers, Chris Trussell and Randal Reid, in the starting line-up for only the second time this season and they combined effectively for the opening goal in the 16th minute when Reid touched home after Trussell had headed the ball into his path.
Fitzpatrick’s 22nd-minute equaliser was the main talking point for the remainder of the match. The referee mistakenly blew for a corner, assuming a well-struck Celtic shot was being tipped over by ‘keeper Gregg Shannon. However the ball dropped down in front of goal, and with everyone else having stopped, hearing the whistle, Fitzpatrick knocked the ball into
the net from close range.
The Reds lost their composure for a time and were punished when Haire nosed the visitors ahead from a corner in the 33rd minute.
Celtic continued to have the edge and there was a let-off at the home end just before the break when Shannon advanced to block after Lavery had raced clear down the flank in a quick counter-attack.
The Comrades started the second session confidently and almost levelled when Trussell crossed from the by-line to Reid, who was tackled as he was about to pull the trigger. Reid limped off and was replaced by Eddie Hill who immediately linked up well with Trussell.
Still, Celtic always looked the more likely to score and did so in the 70th minute when Haire’s firm downwards header gave Shannon no chance.
The Reds staged a late recovery and substitute Gary Brown had a header cleared off the line, while Hill had the ball in the net, only to be denied by the linesman’s raised flag.
The defeat leaves Comrades in the bottom half of the table with only Institute, Donegal Celtic and Lisburn Distillery below them.
Ballyclare Comrades: Shannon; Doherty, McCart (c), McQuitty, Woods; Simpson, McIlveen, King, O’Hanlon (Dobbin 80’); Trussell, Reid (Hill 52’). Subs: Dobbin, E Hill, McClurg, Wharry, Brown.
Next Saturday the Comrades are off the North Down to take on Bangor.