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Tuesday 18th December v. Linfield (home) - Toals Co Antrim Shield SF - k.o: 7:45pm
GLENAVON 3-1 BALLYMENA UNITED
(Carnegie Premier League; 6th January 2007)

BALLYMENA United were brought crashing back to earth after their midweek heroics with a 3-1 defeat at Glenavon today.

Three chaotic first half goals put the Sky Blues on the road to defeat at Mourneview Park and despite a much improved second half showing, Ballymena could only pull one goal - an own goal - back.

United's season-long failing of gifting goals to the opposition through individual mistakes was again the telling factor with, unusually, goalkeeper Paul Murphy the guilty party on this occasion.

The stopper has been one of United's most reliable performers this season but he will have to accept at least part responsibility for all three Glenavon goals, which had manager Tommy Wright tearing his hair out on the sidelines.

"Glenavon probably deserved it because they had a better attitude but as for the three goals, it's lucky I'm not fragile or I'd be suicidal.

"We've given some bad goals away in my time here but to give three like that away in one game is beyond a joke. You would get a million-to-one in the bookies," stormed Wright.

The first chapter in the sorry tale came as early as the seventh minute. There appeared little danger as Albert Watson struck a firmly-hit back-pass to Murphy but the keeper delayed his clearance and eventually blasted the ball against Adrian Harper.

As the ball rolled goalwards, the Glenavon midfielder's mis-hit effort was initially kept out by Murphy's foot but Harper recovered to scuff the rebound home past the despairing challenge of back-tracking defender Gary Haveron.

Worse was to follow on 23 minutes when Stephen Magenniss's teasng cross from the right somehow eluded everyone in the penalty area and Murphy reacted too late to prevent the ball from creeping in at the far post.

The comedy of errors continued in the 39th minute when Murphy rushed from his goal to attempt to cut out a Maginness through ball. The keeper appeared to handle the ball outside the penalty area but the ball broke for Harper who sidestepped Murphy and tucked the ball home.

Ballymena, with the game virtually beyond them, showed a marked improvement in the second period, with Stephen Caffrey clearing Stuart King's in-swinging free kick off the line after it had sailed over keeper Paul Rice.

But the only impression the Sky Blues could make on the scoreline came from an unlikely source, Aaron Callaghan's cross from the right appearing to be headed into his own net by Glenavon defender Atiba Charles amid a goalmouth scramble on 75 minutes.

Glenavon: Rice, Wallace, Black, McDonnell, Charles, C. Walsh, Maginness (sub P. Walsh 77), Harper, McConnell, Caffrey (sub Hawthorne 67), Meehan (sub Beggs 77).

Ballymena United: P. Murphy, Callaghan, McClean, Scates, Albert Watson, Haveron, Picking, Patrick, Fitzgerald (sub Reid 45), Kelbie, King (sub D. Murphy 67, sub Friel 88).

Referee: Keith Halliday (Bangor).

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