Defeat by Armagh City dropped Ballyclare Comrades in to the Championship 1 red area for the first time this season.
Two early strikes had City in control at Holm Park, but their third, seconds before the break ended the contest, before they completed the 4-0 rout in the final minute.
For this crucial six pointer manager Stephen Hughes made two enforced changes, with Denver Taggart coming in at left midfield for Mark Shannon who was on holiday, while Curtis Woods got a rare start at the back, deputising for Michael McDermott who was suspended.
Two City strikes in the first quarter set the agenda for the remainder of the match. In the 12th minute Stefan Lavery set it up for PJ Lavery to beat Paddy Flood from close range, and eleven minutes later Stefan Lavery doubled the lead in a quick break up-field.
Comrades missed a wonderful chance to get back in to the match when awarded a penalty for a foul on Taggart, but keeper Morgan guessed correctly and saved Chris Trussell’s spot kick. Trussell was again in the spotlight almost immediately when he drilled the ball in to the net, but a linesman’s raised flag ended the celebrations.
When PJ Lavery doubled his tally in the 44th minute with a stunning drive from well outside the box, it practically ended the Reds’ hopes of getting anything from the game.
However, heads were not down when the resumed for the second session, producing their best spell.
Morgan did well to keep out Michael O’Hanlon’s angled drive with a fingertip save at the expense of a corner, and in the 69th minute Trussell cut inside from the left wing and beat Morgan with a delicate banana shot, but the ball drifted just wide of the far post.
Ten minutes from time Morgan came to the rescue again, when he foiled Trussell with a fine low diving save from a free kick, but after having been on the ascendancy for a time, Comrades conceded an 89th minute fourth goal, when Atrach outpaced the defence before firing past Flood.
Summing up manager Stephen Hughes said, “The scoreline flattered Armagh; we had plenty of the ball but failed to put away our chances, while they had a couple of pacy forwards who were a constant threat.”
Ballyclare Comrades: Flood; C Woods (E Hill 78’), Getty, Wharry, McQuitty; O’Hanlon, Johnstone, Dobbin, Taggart (Reid 59’); Brown, Trussell. Subs not used: McCullough, Haskins, McCart.
The first of Comrades four home matches in March will be on Saturday when Annagh United will be in town for a crunch basement battle.