Ballymena beat struggling Ards at Showgrounds
Ballymena United 4-1 Ards
By Paul Alexander
Ballymena United maintained pressure on Danske Bank Premiership leaders Linfield after a 4-1 win against bottom side Ards at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Saturday afternoon.
The home side went ahead through their leading goal scorer, Cathair Friel, inside the first five minutes of the match. Adam Lecky played the ball inwards to James Knowles who was tackled. Although Friel remained alert as he finished for his 15th goal of the current season.
Wing-back Andy McGrory tried to double the Braidmen’s advantage with a free-kick which he curled wide of the near post. It would be Lecky who would make it 2-0 with his 10th goal in all competitions on 15 minutes. The striker followed the ball into the 18-yard box and rounded a helpless Sam Johnston in the away goal.
Colin Nixon’s side came very close to pulling a goal back within minutes of Ballymena’s second. Daryl Evans forwarded Gareth Tommons’ corner from the right onto Darren Henderson who hit the post from close range.
The Sky Blues thought they had added to their lead with almost 26 minutes played. Friel’s initial shot was blocked by Johnston before Lecky finished from an offside position. Tommons was again involved as the away side tried to issue a response. His deep free-kick was attacked by line of white shirts, however the ball was cushioned by Ross Glendinning.
On 30 minutes McGrory had another opportunity for United when his low shot across goal went wide of the bottom-left corner. Ards did find a goal in the second minute of first-half stoppage time. Johnston recorded an unlikely assist after his free-kick from inside the away half was nodded in by Henderson.
David Jeffrey’s side made an even quicker start to the second-half as they extended their lead after just three minutes. Friel looped the ball over to Lecky whose persistence paid off, despite the efforts of Michael Kerr at the back post.
United threatened again mid-way through the closing period when Friel was denied by a good stop from Johnston. The visitors hit the woodwork for a second time in the game as Joshua Kelly’s shot came back off the crossbar.
Friel continued to try and add to his earlier goal on 76 minutes but his shot from inside the area was blocked by centre-back Evans. The 25-year-old also attempted to connect with Stephen McCullough’s free-kick, however he was beaten to the ball by Ards’ Kerr who scored an unfortunate own goal in the 81st minute.
Ballymena United: Glendinning, McCullough, Addis, Ervin, Balmer, McGrory, Knowles (Harpur, 75), Millar, Winchester (Kane, 83), Friel (McMurray, 83), Lecky
Subs not used: Williamson, Whiteside, Faulkner, Shevlin
Ards: Johnston, Nelson, Evans, Byers, Kerr, D. McAllister, J. Kelly, Tommons (M. Kelly, 51), E. McAllister (Bennett, 61), Cherry, Henderson (McLellan, 73)
Subs not used: Davidson, McClean, McAleenan, McCawl
Referee: Ross Dunlop (Carrickfergus)
In-Touch Man of the Match: Adam Lecky (Ballymena)
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