Loughgall bounced back from last week’s Mid-Ulster Cup exit with an impressive victory over high-flying Ballyclare Comrades at Lakeview Park.
Loughgall made the perfect start as they were awarded a penalty after only 8 minutes when Curtis Woods fouled Peter Campbell inside the area. John Uprichard stepped up and sent Comrades ‘keeper Paddy Flood the wrong way to score his 10th goal of the season.
Ballyclare failed to break down the Loughgall defence and really test home ‘keeper Gareth Buchanan in the first period. The closest they came was in the 36th minute when Thomas O’Hanlon saw his 25 yard free-kick well held by Buchanan.
Five minutes before the break the hosts doubled their advantage as Stefan McMaster played in Marc McConnell, just outside the penalty area, and he struck a sweet shot that nestled in the bottom corner beyond ‘keeper Flood.
Ballyclare grabbed a goal back 11 minutes into the second half when Jason Johnston beat the offside trap to fire past Buchanan.
Loughgall goalkeeper Buchanan had to be alert one minute later to save O’Hanlon’s curling free-kick that was destined for the top corner.
A good attacking move between Stuart Mallen and Peter Campbell resulted in ‘Gall striker Uprichard having a great chance to regain his side’s two-goal lead on the hour mark. Uprichard did well to sidestep Michael McQuitty however he couldn’t keep his effort on target.
Loughgall’s task was made even more difficult as they had to play out the final 27 minutes with only ten men. Midfielder Stefan McMaster was shown two yellow cards in quick succession by referee Neil Robinson.
There was a controversial finish to the game as Ballyclare felt massively aggrieved to have saw McQuitty’s goal chalked off for offside. McQuitty converted from close range however the assistant raised his flag despite it appearing that Loughgall captain Stephen Ferguson was playing him onside.
In injury time Loughgall should have extended their winning margin when Uprichard was clean through with only ‘keeper Flood to beat. The forward unfortunately lost his footing at the crucial time when he was lining up to shoot and Flood reacted well to clear the danger.
Loughgall: Buchanan, Devlin, Mallen, Copeland, Taylor, Dallas, Ferguson, McConnell, McMaster, Uprichard, Campbell. Unused subs: Elliott, Hudson, McCann, Stretton.
Ballyclare Comrades: Flood, Woods, Gray, Johnston, McQuitty, Youle, O’Hanlon (Irwin 86m), Dobbin, Trussell (McMullan 33m), Taggart, Robinson (Brown 78m). Unused sub: Shannon.