Striker Chris Trussell was the toast of Ballyclare when his hat-trick secured an exciting 5-3 win for Ballyclare Comrades against Championship 1 title favourites Dundela.
But what a dramatic finish at Dixon Park, where this eight-goal thriller had the fans out of their seats, especially in a nerve-tingling seven minutes of added time.
After 90 minutes Comrades led 3-2; then Dundela equalised; Gerard McAlea was sent off for dissent, only for Jonny McClurg and Trussell to earn a win for the Reds with two late strikes in a pulsating finish.
Chris Getty had to make a goal-line clearance in the third minute from Irwin before Kyle Cherry nosed the visitors ahead in the 21st minute.
The Reds were gifted an equaliser in the 40th minute when keeper McKay spilled a cross from McGowan, with the ever-alert Trussell applied the finishing touch.
The second half opened with Duns still on top, but in the 56th minute Comrades hit the front, when McClurg’s header rebounded off the post for Trussell to convert.
Inspired by this success Comrades seemed to have put the game to bed when a Daniel Smith corner found McClurg whose bullet header in to the roof of the net made it 3-1.
Paddy Flood then pulled off the most acrobatic save of the afternoon when he somehow managed to keep out McComb’s volley, but eight minutes from time it was game on when Beggs nodded home from close range.
The drama really hotted up in added time. Black seemed to have salvaged a point when he scrambled the ball past Flood, but immediately McAlea received his second yellow for remonstrating with the referee.
But when debutant George Young was upended in the box McClurg stepped up to confidently regain the lead from the spot, and then in the 97th minute with Dundela pushing players forward they were caught out at the back and Trussell coolly rounded McKay before slotting home to make absolutely sure of the points.
“It was a real thriller,” said manager Eddie Hill who had to watch the match from the stand while on suspension. “But I was disappointed we were unable to hold on to our lead when we were 3-1 up. The lads rolled up their sleeves when we were reduced to 10 men, and they sent the fans home happy.”
Ballyclare Comrades: Flood; Monteith, Getty, Doyle (C), Cooper; Smith (Young 84), McAlea, McGowan (Wilkinson 73), Gray, McClurg, Trussell. Subs not used: Dunlop, Forsythe, Doherty.