Ballyclare Comrades 2 – 1 Loughgall

Loughgall made a disappointing start to their 2017/18 Bluefin Sport Championship season with a narrow loss away to Ballyclare Comrades.

Manager Dean Smith handed debuts to new signings Dale Montgomery, Jordan Campbell and Jamie Douglas while Conor Mullen and Craig Taylor came on as second-half substitutes.

After an even start to the game, Comrades took the lead on 10 minutes when Samuel McIlveen’s cracking free-kick, from 25 yards, finished low into the bottom corner of the net.

The hosts could have doubled their lead three minutes later when Adam Gray pounced on Loughgall ‘keeper Gareth Buchanan’s short throw-out. Gray worked a shooting opportunity but was denied by an excellent low save by Buchanan.

Loughgall equalised in the 19th minute when Dale Montgomery’s tremendous whipped free-kick from 40 yards was met by Jamie Douglas at the back post where he headed confidently home.

Eight minutes before the break Ballyclare hit the crossbar in quick succession. Paul Maguire’s effort crashed against the woodwork and, after a scramble, was struck onto the crossbar again from Gary Brown from close range.

The winning goal came only seconds after the interval when Mark Kelly finished low from a difficult angle in the Loughgall penalty area.

The second half produced very little good football and Loughgall, frustratingly, struggled to test Ballyclare ‘keeper Paddy Flood.

Loughgall: Buchanan, Montgomery, Stretton, Copeland, J Campbell, Dallas, P Campbell (Taylor 82m), Ferguson, Baker, Douglas (Mullen 59m), McConnell (Hoey 59m). Unused subs: Rea, McMaster.

Ballyclare Comrades: Flood, Woods, Gray, Rodgers, Youle, McIlveen, Dobbin, Kelly (Mackie 67m), Maguire (Johnston 84m), Robinson, Brown. Unused subs: McKinty, McCart, Curry.

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