Adam Lecky and Garry Breen contest a header (©INPHO/Stephen Hamilton)
Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Ballymena United bounced back from a disappointing couple of weeks to secure a narrow victory over Cliftonville at The Showgrounds.
The Sky Blues might have moved in front after a quarter-of-an-hour when Leroy Millar's flicked header from Steven McCullough's free-kick was turned onto the crossbar by Richard Brush.
But, just five minutes after that, David Jeffrey's side did move in front when Tony Kane's free-kick was knocked back into the area for Cathair Friel to control the ball with one foot and fire past Brush with the other.
Then, moments later, Jude Winchester might have added a second on the break while Andy McGrory was presented with a great chance just after the half-hour mark following a great team move only to fire wide of the right post.
Cliftonville were more competitive in the second half but were unable to breach a resolute home defence with skipper Jim Ervin making a couple of crucial interventions.
Despite this Ballymena extended their advantage on 72 minutes when Millar executed a deft turn to lob Brush but, barely sixty seconds later, Rory Donnelly pulled one back for the Reds when he was allowed to rise unchallenged to nod home from a corner.
Looking to kill the game off, Ballymena hit back with a drilled effort from Winchester which Brush palmed away before spectacularly turning a Friel drive around the post.
Cliftonville remained a potent threat in search of the equaliser and might have grabbed it with five minutes remaining when Chris Curran fizzed the ball just wide.
Ballymena United: Glendinning, Kane, Addis, Whiteside, Friel, McCullough, McGrory, Winchester, Ervin, Lecky, Millar subs Williamson (not used), Quigley (not used), McGinty (not used), Faulkner (not used), Shevlin (not used), Balmer (not used), McMurray (not used)
Cliftonville: Brush, Breen, Grace, C. Curran, R. Curran, A. Harkin, Bagnall, McConnell, Gormley, McMenamin, Gorman subs Neeson (not used), McGovern (not used), Ives (not used), Garrett (replaced A. Harkin 79), R. Donnelly (replaced McConnell 56), Catney (not used), A. Donnelly (not used)
Referee: Tony Clarke
|Cathair Friel||90 +1||20|