Joe ‘The Goal’ Gormley celebrated his player of the month award by bagging the winner to send Cliftonville back to the top of the Premier League table.
The 22 year old rattled in his 10th of the season - but it was the previous nine that won Gormley the BT Sport accolade for the month of August, nominated by the NI Football Writers.
Gormley struck after just three minutes, capitalising an Mark McCullagh’s hesitancy to lob the ball over a stranded Dwayne Nelson.
It was enough to halt an unexpected two game losing streak; Tommy Breslin’s men were beaten by Portadown and Coleraine in their previous fixtures.
But Breslin was still not happy, stating: “We still have a lot of work in front of us.
“Our passing was poor and we are still not playing with the fluency we seen last season. We are not sparkling the way we can. We tend to become a little bit anxious on occasions in terms of our passing in movement. In saying that, it’s still early days.
“At the end of the day, it was good to come down here (Ballymena) and get a result against a team that were still on a high after beating Portadown in midweek.
“Keeping a clean sheet was also a bonus. We have taken a bit of criticism from certain quarters about the number of goals we have been conceding.
“But when you analyse it, a couple came from the spot and a few from set piece situations, dead ball free kicks. You don’t become a poor team overnight.”
Gormley, thrilled with his personal award, preferred to shower his team mates with the plaudits.
He stated: “It’s nice to pick up any award, but we are all in this together. I maybe get all the back slaps for scoring the goals, but the boys keep creating the chances.”
United missed to gilt-edged chances of punishing the current champions.
To make matters worse, Ballymena then had Aaron Stewart dismissed for picking up two yellow cards.
Manager Glenn Ferguson said: “We can take many positives away from the game.
“Yes, we are disappointed with the result, especially when we had two glorious chances in the second half, but failed in both cases.”
BALLYMENA U: Nelson, Kane, Ruddy (Duffin 85), Taylor, McCullagh, Stewart, Thompson Gawley (Liggett 46), McClellan (Davidson 65) Jenkins, Teggart Subs: Taggart, Munster.
Cliftonville: Devlin, Caldwell, Seydak, Catney, Smyth, McGovern, Curran (Garrett 81), McNeill, Boyce (O’Carroll 56) Gormley (Doherty 87), Donnelly. Subs: Scannell, Murray.
Ref: R Crangle (Belfast).