Ballymena United 2-1 Glenavon
By Paul Alexander
Johnny McMurray produced a 90th-minute winner for Ballymena United as pacesetters Glenavon suffered only their second Danske Bank Premiership loss of the season at the Ballymena Showgrounds on Friday evening.
Andy McGrory’s opening goal was nullified by Mark Sykes’ leveller before McMurray scored his second goal of the season to date six minutes after coming on as a substitute.
After 8 minutes Glenavon’s Andy Hall had the first significant opening of the fixture although any danger was averted when Ross Glendinning gladly collected the ball in the Ballymena goal.
The Braidmen took the lead at the other end in the seconds which followed. Cathair Friel’s cross was stabbed back across goal by Willie Faulkner before Andy McGrory netted against his former club.
Friel then had a chance of his own but the low, curling effort went wide after taking a touch off a visiting defender. United midfielder Faulkner tried to better his earlier assist on 21 minutes through some intricate technique which could only force a corner.
Gary Hamilton’s side also created a couple of opportunities inside the opening 45 minutes. Striker Stephen Murray attempted a shot on the turn which pulled away from the bottom right corner. Murray’s strike partner Andrew Mitchell had a header taken by Glendinning after the referee’s assistant had already raised his flag.
Within first-half stoppage time, the hosts were given a free-kick which was taken by Stephen McCullough. The left wing-back tried to curl the set piece inside the left post, however, it deflected off the end of the defensive wall and went wide for a corner kick.
With 11 minutes of the second-half gone Faulkner could have recorded his second assist of the night but his cross from the right was directed over the crossbar by Leroy Millar. The 28-year-old then tried to add the Sky Blues second goal although Glenavon goalkeeper Jonathan Tuffey was able to gather.
Tuffey made another routine save on 62 minutes to stop Ballymena doubling their advantage. Sky Blue midfielder Millar edged forward and presented Friel with the ball whose rising attempt was held by Tuffey. Four minutes later Mark Sykes looked to find an equaliser but his shot flew over the target.
Sykes continued to push forward and provided Murray with an opportunity which also went over the frame of Glendinning’s goal. The Lurgan Blues’ midfielder would level the scoreline in the 73rd minute when he received the ball from Rhys Marshall and scored into the bottom left corner.
United went ahead for a second time through third and final substitute Johnny McMurray with 90 minutes played. Tony Kane chipped the ball towards McMurray who headed past Tuffey at the far post.
Ballymena United: Ross Glendinning, McCullough, Addis, Ervin [C], Whiteside, McGrory, Millar, Knowles (Kane, 77), Faulkner (Winchester, 73), Friel (McMurray, 84), Lecky
Subs not used: McCauley, Nolan, Reece Glendinning, Umar
Glenavon: Tuffey [C], Singleton, King, Marron, Marshall, Daniels, Doherty, Sykes, Hall (McCloskey, 63), Mitchell (Jenkins, 74), Murray
Subs not used: Grace, Donnelly, Harmon, Clingan, Muir
Referee: Andrew Davey (Bangor)
In-Touch Man of the Match: Scot Whiteside (Ballymena)
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