Kyle Cherry and Leroy Millar keep a close eye on the ball (©INPHO/Jonathan Porter)
Saturday, 22 December 2018
Ballymena United set a new club record of 17 games unbeaten with a two-goal victory over Ards at The Showgrounds.
The win was also the Sky Blues' 12th successive victory and moves them four points clear going into the busy festive period.
United opened the scoring on 12 minutes after James Knowles delivered an inviting cross from the right for Leroy Millar to direct a downward header past Sam Johnston into the bottom corner.
Ards had the ball in the net midway through the first half when Kyle Cherry bundled it over the line at the near post after Michael McLellan had knocked a pass into the box but referee Shane Andrews ruled it out following a foul on keeper Thomas McDermott.
Cathair Friel might have doubled Ballymena's lead with just over half-an-hour on the clock only to just miss making a connection with the loose ball after Millar had mis-hit a shot.
However, on 35 minutes, it was 2-0. Millar again showed his call by holding off two players, beating another couple and delivering an inch perfect pass for Jude Winchester to turn into the net.
And the Sky Blues came close to extending their advantage further just before the break. Friel found himself through on goal but was upended by Johnston, prompting the referee to point to the spot. However, the Ards keeper redeemed himself by producing a good save to thwart James Knowles' subsequent penalty.
Steven McCullough then came close with an effort against the crossbar on 67 minutes, almost finishing a flowing move which saw Knowles find Millar before he laid the ball off.
Remarkably, David Jeffrey's side then missed a second penalty with around a quarter-of-a-hour to go. Winchester was the guilty party on this occasion, seeing his spot-kick saved low to the left by Johnston.
Ballymena United: McDermott, Addis, Friel, Knowles, McCullough, Burns, Balmer, Winchester, Ervin, Lecky, Millar subs McCauley (not used), Quigley (not used), Whiteside (not used), Mayse (replaced Friel 87), McGinty (replaced Burns 76), Shevlin (not used), McMurray (replaced Lecky 70)
Ards: Johnston, Kerr, E. McAllister, Byers, Cherry, McLellan, D. McAllister, Tommons, McClean, Nelson, McAleenan subs Davidson (not used), M. Kelly (replaced McLellan 80), J. Kelly (not used), Mitchell (not used), McKenna (replaced E. McAllister 82), Strain (replaced Nelson 56), McArthur (not used)
Referee: Shane Andrews