Peter Wilson reports from Inver Park
Larne thrashed Ballyclare Comrades in their final pre-season game with a ruthless display leading to a seven-goal rout. David McDaid scored a hat-trick while Johnny McMurray got his first goal for the club and Jeff Hughes, Ben Tilney and Cillin Gilmour also got on the score tally.
It was the visitors who had the better chances early on, as Joe Tully struck a free kick well from 20 yards out but it sliced just wide of the post five minutes in.
Despite the visitors’ promising start, it was the home side who had the ball in the net for the first time a minute later. Mark Randall rounded Ben McCauley, who had come off his line, pulled back and was able to tee up David McDaid to simply tap into an open goal.
It was soon two as Jeff Hughes prodded in at the back post from a low Tomas Cosgrove cross on 19 minutes.
Two further goals arrived in the next 11 minutes; the first was on 23 minutes as Hughes showed great vision to find Ben Tilney on the left flank who whipped in an inviting cross to McDaid, who poked in to get his brace.
The next one arrived 15 minutes from the interval as Hughes teed up Tilney, and the winger stepped inside a Comrades defender before thumping it home into the top corner.
On 38, Randall took a free kick 23 yards out well but McCauley managed to turn it aside.
In the final moments of the first half, Johnny McMurray almost had his own goal when McCauley spilled his strike but the defender managed to clear just before the line.
It was agony once more for McMurray as his spectacular half volley skimmed the top of the crossbar on the way over early in the second period.
The ex-Ballymena man finally got his goal with 54 minutes gone as after a number of deflections, the ball at last nestled into the bottom left.
Number six came on 67 minutes when Randall played in McDaid from outside the box, and the striker had the simple task of sliding in past replacement ‘keeper Tom Hegan.
There were two further opportunities to extend the host’s lead in the space of five minutes as Randall’s audacious effort from inside his own half almost sailed in but was frustratingly over the bar, before Shane McEleney headed wide from Martin Donnelly’s corner.
It was another frustrating moment for the home side five minutes from time as Thomas Stewart was through to score but Hegan spread himself well to deny the striker.
However the magic number seven came just two short minutes later with the initial strike being spilled by Hegan, allowing Cillin Gilmour to quickly pounce to slot beneath him.
Larne: Devlin, Kelly, Watson, McEleney, Sule, Randall, McDaid, Tilney, Cosgrove, Hughes, McMurray
Subs: Lynch, Hassin, Graham, Mitchell, Andrade, Stewart, Gilmour
Ballyclare Comrades: McCauley, Woods, Crawford, McCart, Henry, Donnelly, Malone, C. Dobbin, Nolan, Tully, Beggs
Subs: T. Hegan, McQuitty, McIlveen, JB. Dobbin, Patchett, K. Hagan
Larne have a fortnight until their next game; their opening Premiership game at home to Warrenpoint Town on Saturday 10 August. Kick off at Inver Park is 3pm.
Photo: Bill Guiller