Watson praises players despite defeat

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A YOUTHFUL Ballyclare Comrades Reserves team travelled to Ballymena on Saturday to take on one of the top local sides, Harryville Homers, in an IFA Junior Cup tie and finished on the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline.

Having lost Aaron Ibinson to Donegal Celtic and striker Daniel Ellis to the senior squad, manager Jonty Watson also had to find replacements for Niall McErlean, Matt Boyd and skipper Pod Lynch, so five teenagers were recruited from the Youth XI.

Unfazed by their unbeaten opponents, the visitors opened the scoring in the ninth minute, when midfielder Aaron Lindsay connected with a Richard MacAuley cross to nod past the keeper.

A minute later, Homers were back on level terms when Warren McAllister managed to get his hands to a well struck free, but couldn’t prevent the ball crossing the line.

Two more home strikes before the interval gave the locals a healthy 3-1 lead at the break, and although the Reds continued to stroke the ball around they were out-muscled all over the park, and did well to concede only one more goal in the second half.

“I must lavish praise on my young side for digging in and playing for pride against the odds, especially the five from the Under-17s - David McCallen, Nathan Stranaghan, Jamie McTaggart, Dean McAllister and John Thompson,” said boss Jonty Watson.

“Each one of them did the club proud, with young McCallen doing a fantastic job in central midfield, while once again our talented left-sided midfielder, Aaron Lindsay, was picked out for special praise by the opposition manager.

“Hopefully, some of our regulars will return for this weekend’s crunch top of the table clash with Tobermore United Reserves.

“We are the only undefeated team in the Ballymena Junior League Division 1, but Tobermore are only one point behind us, so the outcome will have a crucial bearing on our attempt to retain the title,” he stated.

Ballyclare Comrades Reserves: W McAllister; Wilson, Rainey, Liken, Lunney; MacAuley, Spence, McCallen, Lindsay; J Boyd, Stranaghan. Subs: McTaggart, Thompson, D McAllister.

Don’t miss this week’s Times for reaction to Ballyclare Comrades’ Intermediate Cup defeat to Islandmagee, plus we look ahead to this weekend’s Irish Cup clash with Bangor