A great performance by Combers new look Under 17 side saw them run away 4-1 winners against Loughside in a very feisty game, with the Rec. boys picking up their first points of the campaign.
After last weeks disaster 6-0 defeat by Eddie Irvine's, the management made it extremely clear to the boys that the reaction was very important. With skipper Jamie McLaughlin joining Glentoran midweek, Davis Kalkerts had to fill in at centre back alongside Ryan Bradley with Sam Braik coming in beside Neil Ennis and new signing and captain Jason McKee in midfield. The front three consisted of Nathan Rodney, Jack Millar and Ross Alexander.
The game started brightly, with Comber playing some neat football on the deck and moving up the pitch well. The midfield were spreading the ball to fullbacks Josh Halliday and Joel McMullen, who were linking up well with the front three. However, Comber were struggling to create any real chances other than a whipped ball by Braik just evading Nathan Rodney's boot two yards from goal, and a couple of long range efforts going wide or straight at the Loughside keeper. Loughside came into it at this point, however despite some decent play in the midfield, they struggled to create any clear cut chances thanks to solid defending from the Comber back line - a trend that continued throughout the 90 minutes.
The first clear chance of the game fell to Jack Millar, after good work down the right flank and a decent cross into the box, Millar saw his side footed effort go just over the bar. However, Comber didn't have to wait too long for their goal. Nathan Rodney nicked the ball off the Loughside centre back and sprinted clear to slot the ball into the corner. Combers first goal of the season and a welcome relief all round. Jason McKee and Neil Ennis were playing some lovely stuff in midfield, with Ennis going on a couple of strong runs down the right flank.
With Loughside being outplayed by the Rec. boys, they were definitely the happier of the two sides to hear the half-time whistle. The management were happy with the performance, and instructed Comber not to react to any dirty tackles from Loughside - which were becoming more and more frequent.
The second half started much the way the first had ended - Comber on the attack. Jason McKee was playing some outstanding passes, quickly linking defence to attack, and one of them found Comber forward Jack Millar, who controlled the ball superbly before putting it past the 'keeper and into the net. 2-0 Comber and the game seemed to be over.
Loughside instantly came forward, putting Comber under a spell of pressure lasting about ten minutes. Again, they were unable to create any chances of note, with 'keeper Daniel Rosbotham gathering up any long passes that managed to evade the exceptional Comber defence. Then, the Loughside forward was bundled over in the box and was awarded a penalty, which was dispatched brilliantly into the corner. 2-1 and Loughside had a chance to nick something from the game.
With Loughside trying to press forward, Comber woke up and began coming forward again. A couple of long range efforts went just over the bar, and on several occasions Aaron Moore and Jack Davison, who had been substituted on, got into good positions on the wing however had no-one to aim at in the box. Comber restored their two goal lead whenever Braik carried the ball into the Loughside half and smashed the ball over the keeper from long range. 3-1 and the points were safe.
Loughside clearly knew that their chances of any points were slipping away, and began kicking and shoving the Comber players, who to their credit did not react. At one point, Michael Crooks was squared up to by an opposition player, resulting in the two teams coming together. However, it was soon sorted and the play continued, with the energetic Ross Alexander working hard to win the ball on several occasions.
Alexander was rewarded for his hard work whenever he raced clear of the Loughside defence to slot the ball underneath the onrushing keeper, ensuring that the points were Combers. Towards the end of the match Neil Ennis went on a spectacular run that saw him dance past the opposition goalkeeper, only to be brought down by an outstretched leg. Despite a loud clatter from the sound of the 'keepers boots hitting Neil's shinguard, the referee decided that a goal kick was the correct decision. Adam Childs returned from a hamstring injury, coming on for the last ten minutes.
New signing Anthony McKenzie (TJ) went through on goal towards the end of the match, however his side footed effort went just over the crossbar. Loughside were trying to salvage something, however the outstanding Comber defence wasn't allowing anything through. Towards the end of the match, Comber had a couple of chances that perhaps should have been converted, however the points were already well and truly safe.
A great reaction from Comber after last weeks horror show. However that is now past us, and we look forward to what will hopefully be a successful and rewarding season.
Comber: Rosbotham - Halliday, Kalkerts, Bradley, McMullen - Braik, McKee, Ennis - Rodney, Alexander, Millar
Subs: Davison, Crooks, Moore, McKenzie, Childs