Islandmagee's title bid is left in tatters

Comber Rec 3

ISLANDMAGEE, top of the tree just two short weeks ago, have now slipped down to fourth with their title hopes realistically over after losing by a single goal midweek at Newington Youth Club, and then 3-2 on Saturday to third-bottom Comber Rec at Park Way.

While Comber are one of the division’s in form sides under new boss John Baillie, Island will look on this as three points thrown away as they had already done the hard work coming back from a goal down and a man down, seemingly coasting comfortably to victory,until handing Comber a lifeline just seven minutes from time, when a long punt from Rec keeper Jason Mooney, who had been hitting it long all day, bounced over the head of opposite number David Harrison.

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The Islanders had made the early running, with Billy Waide, back from a one-match ban, twice going close. Instead it was Comber who nosed in front on eight minutes when Stephen Mallon lofted a Michael Henderson pass over the head of the onrushing Harrison.

Island ought to have scrubbed that one out just before the break when Peter Kelly brought down Paul Waite inside the box, only for Michael Moore to slash the resultant penalty wide.

Just after the restart, Harrison kept Island within touching distance, pulling off an excellent save, and the Wilbourners thought they had levelled when Andy Waide scampered through to give Mooney no chance, only for referee David Appleyard to rule offside. Striker Stuart Hilditch disagreed with the decision, but perhaps he could have used a better choice of words as his dissent landed him with a red card.

Island, nonetheless, grabbed a deserved leveller when Billy Waide drove the ball in off a defender and three minutes later he edged the Islanders in front, scoring at the second time of asking after his initial shot had been parried by Mooney.

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As the minutes ticked away, it was difficult to see anything other than an Islandmagee victory until the 83rd minute, when Mooney caught Harrison off his line; the back-pedalling keeper only succeeding in helping the ball into the net.

Island would have been disappointed with a draw, which would have been no real use in their fast fading title bid, but in the end it wasn’t even as good as that, for three minutes from time Harrison made another howler, swiping at and missing an Aaron Anderson throw-in and then standing arguing with the young defender as Chris Cochrane raced through to dispatch the ball into the empty net.

Next Saturday, it’s back to Wilbourne Park for the visit of Dunmurry Rec.

Islandmagee; Harrison – Craig, Tierney, Moore, Anderson – B Waide, Moffett, Waite (McKnight), Murray – Hilditch, A Waide. Sub (unused) Smyth.