ALL three substitutes played a vital role in Ballyclare Comrades Reserves’ 2-1 win against Graham McConnell’s Larne Olympic at Inver Park.
Daniel Ellis and Niall McErlean scored the goals that secured three points Ballymena Junior League Division 1 win, while Richard MacAuley earned the Man of the Match accolade.
With several fringe players from the senior side drafted in, MacAuley found himself on the bench, but after replacing Aaron Ibinson before interval he ran the show.
Olympic opened the scoring when Marc Rainey’s attempted back-header to keeper Warren McAllister fell short, allowing a home striker to stroke the ball in to the net.
In the second session Larne side continued to be quick in the tackle, but Watson’s decision to bring on his remaining two substitutes and opt for a 3-4-3 formation gave Comrades the edge.
With Ellis, Jonathan Boyd and McErlean forming the strike force, Olympic were under pressure for the first time, but with only 10 minutes on the clock they still were favourites to collect the points.
It all changed in a blistering two-minute spell during which the ‘Clare lads snatched the win. In the 80th minute MacAuley and J Boyd combined for Ellis to drive in the equaliser, and almost immediately the impressive MacAuley set it up for McErlean to drill the winner in to the roof of the net.
“What a finish,” said boss Jonty Watson. “Although we were playing well it seemed that we were never going to score. Accommodating the senior players disrupted our normal rhythm, but the introduction of our substitutes proved to be the turning point, and set us up to extend our 100 per cent league and cup record with a fifth straight win.”
Ballyclare Comrades Reserves: McAllister, Reid, Rainey, Wilson, Lunney; Brown, M Boyd, Ibinson, Spence; J Boyd, D Higgins. Subs: MacAuley, for Ibinson, McErlean for Rainey, Ellis for Higgins.
Skipper Pod Lynch is likely to be out for several weeks with a fractured ankle.
Watson’s lads have received a bye in the second round of the IFA Junior Cup.