AFTER scoring twice in the opening 12 minutes at Dixon Park, Ballyclare Comrades seemed on course for a comfortable afternoon against Queen’s University, but the students staged a late recovery to ensure a nervy finish.
In the end Chris Shimmon’s early double was enough to secure the 2-1 Championship 2 win that keeps Comrades’ promotion push on target.
The two Easter defeats are now a distant memory following three home wins, but Eddie Hill’s Ballyclare now take on their two main rivals, Knockbreda and Armagh City, in the space of three days this weekend.
For the clash with Queen’s, Hill made two changes with Chris Getty and Johnny McClurg coming in for injured duo Evan Forsythe and Simon McGowan, and they got off to a whirlwind start.
In the ninth minute Shimmon chased down a long clearance and chipped the ball over Queen’s keeper Duff.
Three minutes later the Reds’ frontman had the ball in the net again when he neatly rounded Duff after latching on to a nicely weighted pass from skipper Ricky Higgins.
With the wind in their backs Comrades were completely dominant. Gary Brown’s curling effort beat Duff but rebounded off the bar, while Andrew Doyle fired straight in to the keeper’s arms after carrying the ball half the length of the pitch himself.
In the 37th minute Duff did well to block an Andy Simms shot with his legs, and seconds before the break Simms headed a Higgins’ cross back in to the danger area where Brown had his shot saved.
It had been one-way traffic towards the visiting goal for the first 45 minutes, and the Reds should have been much further ahead at the interval.
Roles were reversed in the second session. Heavy rain had started just before the break so with both wind and rain in their backs the students took over, but despite having territorial advantage they were unable to break down a resolute defence, so keeper Paddy Flood was having a relatively easy time.
He made one early save from Lavery, but wasn’t tested again until the 68th minute when he got down smartly to deny Hagan.
Queen’s eventually pulled one back in the 74th minute when Hagan headed firmly in to the net, and later O’Hare should have equalised when he fired over from a good position.
With the students going all out to salvage a point, they left themselves open to counter-attacks, and in the closing minutes McClurg and Simms could have made victory doubly secure but they were off target.
Ballyclare Comrades: Flood; Monteith (Gray), Doyle, Getty, Buckley; Brown (Reid), McClurg, McAlea, Simms; Higgins (c) (Wilkinson), Shimmon. Subs not used: McAvoy, Rainey.
On Saturday Comrades travel to title favourites, Knockbreda, and on Tuesday evening (April 23), they entertain Armagh city at Dixon Park (7.45 pm).
See this week’s Newtownabbey Times for reaction from this game and a look ahead to the weekend clash with Knockbreda.