Andy McGrory and Cathair Friel celebate (©INPHO/Matt Mackey)
Saturday, 17 November 2018
Ballymena United stretched their unbeaten run in all competitions to 11 games with victory over Cliftonville at The Showgrounds.
Cliftonville came close to opening the scoring after just five minutes when a corner wasn't properly cleared by the home defence with the ball coming off Cathair Friel before being cleared on the line by Leroy Millar.
United keeper Thomas McDermott was called into action after a quarter-of-an-hour to impressively deny a Joe Gormley low right-foot effort while, at the other end, Brian Neeson did well to deny Andy McGrory.
Rory Donnelly then fired a right-foot drive just past the far post, while Jay Donnelly took the ball past a couple of defenders before curling a shot straight at McDermott.
Both sides might have edged in front during the closing moments of the first half. Levi Ives skimmed the post with a free-kick while Ballymena did have the ball in the net but it was ruled out after the referee spotted an infringement.
But the deadlock was broken three minutes after the break. A Jonny Addis pass cut open the Cliftonville defence allowing Friel through to finish powerfully past Neeson.
Friel then sent an effort from distance just over before being later denied by a superb reflex stop by diving Neeson who managed to tip the ball away for a corner.
The Sky Blues doubled their advantage with around a quarter-of-an-hour remaining courtesy of Steven McCullough's left-foot which unleashed a free-kick into the top corner.
Cliftonville hit back a few minutes after that through Conor McDonald with a close range touch after Gormley had crossed from the left but it proved to be too late in the game to spark a revival.
Ballymena United: McDermott, Addis, Whiteside, Friel, Knowles, McCullough, McGrory, Winchester, Ervin, Lecky, Millar subs McCauley (not used), Kane (replaced Knowles 80), Burns (not used), Nolan (not used), Shevlin (not used), Re. Glendinning (not used), McMurray (not used)
Cliftonville: Neeson, McGovern, Ives, Breen, C. Curran, R. Curran, R. Donnelly, Catney, Gormley, J. Donnelly, Lavery subs Harney (replaced Lavery 67), Garrett (not used), McDonald (replaced C. Curran 67), Bagnall (not used), Maguire (not used), McMenamin (replaced J. Donnelly 39), McNulty (not used)
Referee: Arnold Hunter