What a difference a week made for Ballynure OB. Last weekend they were sitting on the crest of the wave with the Ballymena Premier League title firmly in their sights, but garnering only one point from a possible six has handed the initiative to Newtowne.
The Limavady lads’ 3-1 win against ‘Nure on Saturday leaves them trailing Gary Burns’ side by four points, but crucially with two games in hand, so a tense finish to a highly competitive league campaign is on the cards.
Ballynure’s problems started last Tuesday evening at Mossley when their bogy team, Rathcoole, struck again. Having won the earlier league clash, and knocked the ‘Nure lads out of the O’Gorman Cup, they delivered another hammer blow by coming from behind twice to secure a 2-2 draw.
Ronnie Burns opened the scoring when he ran on to a Ricky Higgins flick, and Johnny McClurg almost doubled the lead when his drive from thirty yards hit the angle of the woodwork, before the visitors equalised in the 45th minute.
Two minutes in to the second session David Officer regained the lead with a tap in, but with Rathcoole’s talented midfielder “AJ” calling the shots, they set up a nervy finish with an 80th minute equaliser.
Having dropped these two vital points Burns’ lads set off for Limavady on Saturday knowing that this was a must win contest against their only title rivals, but the locals held most of the aces and blew the title race wide open with an emphatic win.
Newtowne forged ahead in the 12th minute with a header from a free, but Johnny Robinson cancelled this one out in the 40th minute, when he nodded in to the net from a McClurg corner.
However Newtowne turned round one up with another header two minutes later, but they had to defend in depth during the third quarter
Twice their keeper came to the rescue to deny Ricky Higgins and Mark Leckey, and hopes soared when the hosts had a player dismissed for dissent.
Despite being short-handed ‘Towne were still on top, and they made sure of the points in injury time, when keeper Paul Hughes was red carded for bringing down an opponent, with the locals sealing the 3-1 win from the resultant penalty.
“Rathcoole and Newtowne are two very good sides,” conceded manager Burns, “but we are beginning to look like a tired team.
“However we must regroup and win our remaining two fixtures against Brantwood and Magherafelt Sky Blues, and hope that Newtowne slip up in some of their remaining four fixtures.”
He added: “We have won the McReynolds Cup, but the holy grail is the league title, and we still haven’t given up hope of delivering it for the first time in over a decade.”
The Ballynure panel for the two games was: Hughes, Robinson, Leckey, Officer, G Curlett, M Curlett, Penny, D Higgins, M Duff (C), R Burns, McClurg, R Higgins, McGreevy, S Duff, Houston, McIlroy.
On Saturday Ballynure end their season in Magherafelt.