GLENTORAN 2 BALLYMENA UTD 0
Glentoran recorded back-to-back Premiership wins for the first time since December 5 with a 2-0 victory over Ballymena United.
A penalty from Jonathan Smith and a second from Ciaran Caldwell were enough to claim the points at a blustery Oval.
The win cements the Glens’ place in the top six – they are now nine points clear of nearest rivals Portadown.
Ballymena remain in eighth spot – 11 points outside the top six with the split fast approaching.
Controversy surrounded Glentoran’s opening goal in the ninth minute of this game.
Ballymena captain Jim Ervin appeared to win a race for the ball with Glens striker Smith inside the visitors’ box, but referee Raymond Hetherington awarded a penalty only after his assistant flagged.
Ballymena were incensed, and their misery was compounded when Smith stepped up to send Alan Blayney the wrong way from the spot.
The home side doubled their lead in the 22nd minute.
Caldwell picked up possession on the left before cutting inside Ervin and dispatching a low right-foot drive past Blayney from the edge of the box.
The visitors’ best chance of the half arrived in the 26th minute, but after being played in by Allan Jenkins’ clever pass striker Darren Henderson was denied by the save of Elliott Morris.
Ballymena should have reduced the deficit in the 49th minute, but Henderson could only take a swipe at fresh air when trying to dispatch Jonny Frazer’s low cross.
Smith almost grabbed his second in the 79th minute, but the striker’s close-range shot rebounded off the base of the post after Curtis Allen had initially lobbed the onrushing Blayney.
At the other end Frazer was denied twice by Morris, the Glens keeper saving the winger’s shot and then getting up to clear the danger.
GLENTORAN: Morris, Holland, McCullough, Birney, Magee, Addis, Gordon (Morrow 46), Lavery (Patton 90), Caldwell (Scullion 69), Allen, Smith.
Subs not used: Gibson, Hogg.
BALLYMENA: Blayney, T. Kane, McBride, Thompson, Taggart (E. Kane 72), Henderson (Tipton 56), Jenkins, Ervin, McVey, Millar (Faulkner 59), Frazer.
Subs not used: Ferguson, Smith.
Referee: Raymond Hetherington (Dungannon)