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Saturday 26th January v. Ards (home) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 3:00pm

Uploaded Saturday, 30th Dec, 2017 at 19:35

Date: Saturday, 30th December, 2017; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 1228;
Ballymena United [1] [3]
Glenavon [1] [1]
Venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Raymond Hetherington; Assistant 1: Adrian Sobieski; Assistant 2: Ryan Kelsey; 4th Official: Raymond Crangle;
[0-1] CLINGAN, Sammy (pen 2 mins), [1-1] BRANIFF, Kevin (12 mins), [2-1] FRIEL, Cathair (77 mins), [3-1] OWENS, Kyle (81 mins)

BALLYMENA United ended 2017 with a bang after a superb comeback win over Glenavon at the Showgrounds.
It was a frantic start to United's last game of 2017, with the visitors being awarded a penalty just 16 seconds in. Conor McCloskey lost possession outside his own box and the ball was picked up by Bobby Burns, whose shot was blocked by the arm of Kofi Balmer. The defender received a booking and from the spot Sammy Clingan sent Ross Glendinning the wrong way as Glenavon took yet another early lead against The Sky Blues.
The Lurgan Blues were fortunate to still have 11 men on the field on 8 minutes when Andrew Mitchell appeared to kick out and Balmer in front of the linesman, but somehow Mitchell got off without caution. 4 minutes later United drew level. Steven McCullough delivered a fantastic through ball from his own half into the path of Kevin Braniff who lifted the ball nicely over Johnny Tuffey and over the line.
Not long after Ballymena almost went ahead when a dangerous cross from Jim Ervin was headed just wide of his own post by James Singleton. As the end to end football continued Burns' inviting ball to the back post just missed the boot of Mitchell, with the slightest of touches all that was needed. Just short of the half hour mark United began to look the more threatening. Cathair Friel, Braniff and Matthew Shevlin linked up well, with the latter volleying from inside the box, but only straight at Tuffey.
A minute later McCullough provided yet another fantastic long ball, this time to Tony Kane, who broke the offside trap and had time to set himself, but Tuffey made a good save at his near post. The Sky Blues continued to press and went close when Kane found Braniff, who after an incredible first touch shot just wide of the post. Shevlin was able to keep the ball in play but Caolan Marron cleared off the line.
With 5 minutes left in the half Glenavon went close twice. First up a clearance from Kyle Owens deflected off Burns and Glendinning had to be alert to make the save. Then from the edge of the 6 yard box Rhys Marshall should've scored, but instead chipped the ball over the bar. Just before half time Friel and McCloskey linked up with a neat one two which put the winger through, but he scuffed his shot as an entertaining and open half ended 1-1.
The second half didn't get going quite as quickly as the first, unsurprisingly. 5 minutes in Friel had a go from distance with the outside of his boot, but Tuffey gathered relatively easily. Owens had a great chance to make it 2 in 4 days for the defender when he met a McCloskey corner, but he volleyed over.
The visitors first chance of the half came on 54 minutes. Burns cut inside from the right, drifting past two Braidmen in the process, before blasting his effort over the bar. 3 minutes after the hour mark Friel will feel he should've made it 2-1. A long free kick from Balmer found the dangerous Owens, and his header across goal was turned agonisingly wide by Friel from close range. Stephen McAlorum, making his first start at The Showgrounds, found himself one on one with Tuffey after McCullough had found him. After getting the ball under control, McAlorum's shot was saved by Tuffey who made himself big to save. Seconds later Friel had a chance but Marshall made a good block.
Next up to go close for the hosts was Balmer. His volley from the edge of the box dipped just over in what would've been a spectacular goal. Glenavon danger man Mark Sykes had two good chances in two minutes to score against the run of play. His first effort was a shot from 20 yards that drifted just wide. A minute later he broke through and slotted the ball past Glendinning, but somehow slotted it wide of the post too.
On 77 minutes Ballymena went in front for the first time. A corner from Kane was met by Friel's head at the front post and despite Tuffey's best efforts, he couldn't keep the ball out. United didn't sit back after the goal and 4 minutes later netted again. Kane delivered a corner again and this time Owen's couldn't be denied, hammering the ball home from close range to make it 2 in 2 for Owens.
A deflated Glenavon tried to set up a tense finish with Burns calling Glendinning into action, but it was a simple save. The best chance of the last 5 minutes came United's way when Friel broke on the counter, with Tuffey saving well with his legs as United completed an impressive 3-1 win to round off a memorable 2017 for David Jeffrey's men.
Ballymena United travel to Solitude to face Cliftonville on Tuesday evening in their first game of 2018. Please click here for important PSNI information regarding this game.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Ross Glendinning, Tony Kane, Kyle Owens ( 45), Stephen McAlorum, Cathair Friel ( 73), Kevin Braniff, Conor McCloskey, Matthew Shevlin, Kofi Balmer ( 1), Jim Ervin, Steven McCullough.

Subs not used: Emmet Friars, Fra McCaffrey, Joe McKinney, Jake McNeill, Conor Brennan.