GLENTORAN 1 BALLYMENA UNITED 1
James Knowles last night rescued Glentoran by nicking a second half equaliser at the Oval.
It was one of few highlights in a game that will now live long in the memory of the supporters who turned up, even though the game was beamed out live by Sky Sports television.
Although David Jeffrey’s Ballymena United carved out the better openings, both teams huffed and puffed without gaining any semblance of superiorty, which just about reflected their respective positions in the Danske Bank Premiership table.
Things look good for the Sky Blues when Cathair Friel shot then ahead from the penalty spot early one, but a mixture of poor finishing and some inspired goalkeeper by Elliott Morris guaranteed it would finish in stalemate.
After the early bout of sparring, it was the visitors who took the lead on 15 minutes.
Glentoran skipper Marcus Kane tripped the fast tracking Gary Thompson inside the box and referee Raymond Hetherington point to the spot.
Friel held his nerve to send goalkeeper Elliott Morris the wrong way.
The Glens responded with Tiernan McNicholl crossing from Curtis Allen, whose drive crashed against the legs of Thompson.
When James Knowles whipped in from the left, Robbie McDaid’s header flashed wide.
But it was the Sky Blues who asked all the questions after that. The dangerous McMurray benefited from a clever link-up between Friel and Willie Faulkner, but Morris out off his line quickly to save.
Then Steven McCullough’s break from defence caused Glentoran all sorts of problems. He had options to his right with the unmarked McMurray and Conor McCloskey pleading for a pass. Instead, he opted for Friel on the left, who made a total hash of the opportunity.
McMurray’s lightning pace caused more problems just before the interval. And, when he picked out McCloskey, he looked a certain scorer, until Morris somehow clawed the ball off the midfielder’s toe.
The Glens were back in it again just 10 minutes after the interval. Substitute Dylan Davidson -- he replaced McDaid -- fired in a low cross from the left that was beaten away by Ross Glendinning, but Knowles followed up to ram home the rebound.
Morris rescued the East Belfast boys with a smart save just four minutes later, getting down to beat away a wicked Friel drive, who was sent free by a delicious pass form McMurray.
But it was ace predator Allen who was left holding his head in frustration 20 minutes from time when he roared through the middle to gather superb pass from Kane, who to ram his shot over the crossbar.
United did have the ball in the net again through Friel, but he was flagged up after straying offside before he tucked the ball home.
Then, as the clock ticked down, Allen buckled under a challenge from Glendinning which duly earned the striker a booking for diving.
GLENTORAN: Morris, Kane, Sterling, Addis, Kelly, Allen, McNicholl, Knowles, Redman, Delaney (McCawl 80), McDaid (Davidson 46).
Unused subs: Gordon, McMullan, Ferrin.
BALLYMENA UNITED: Glendinning, Flynn, Thompson, Friel, McCloskey (Burns 78), Faulkner (McKinney 78), Balmer, Ervin, McCullough, Millar, McMurray.
Unused subs: Kane, Shevlin, McCaffrey.
REFEREE: Raymond Hetherington (Dungannon).