IRISH LEAGUE: Ballymena United on a high after seeing off Ballinamallard United threat

Ballinamallard's Ryan Mayse and Ballymena's Leroy Millar.
Ballinamallard's Ryan Mayse and Ballymena's Leroy Millar.
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Ballinamallard United 1 Ballymena United 2

Ballymena United can go into next Saturday's Irish Cup quarter-final clash with Coleraine on a high after seeing off Ballinamallare United 2-1.

Goals from Johnny McMurray and Conor McCloskey sealed the three points for David Jeffrey's Sky Blues.

Shane McGinty scored a great goal for the Mallards but it was not enough to earn them a share of the spoils.

But in the opening minutes Ballymena United seemed to be still getting over the effects of their League Cup victory as they started slowly and Ballinamallard took the lead in the 9th minute as Shane McGinty hammered home after a neat exchange of passes.It was a fantastic finish from the midfielder as he gave Ross Glendinning in the United goal no chance.

That goal seemed to liven United up as they drew level in the 14th minute. Gary Thompson found Willie Faulkner and his pass released Johnny McMurray. Te striker then finished off in style.It was a good finish from McMurray as he grabbed his 12th goal of the season.

The game ebbed and flowed with both sides trying to get their second of the afternoon and it was the home side who nearly got it in the 44th minute.

McGinty should have scored but his shot was blocked by Glendinning. The ball then fell to Jason McCartney but as he shot for the unguarded goal Ballymena captain Jim Ervin appeared from nowhere to block the shot. It was a lucky escape for the visitors.

Ballymena had the first chance of the second half but Faulkner and Friel's shots were both blocked by the home defence.

United were stepping up the pressure but Ballinamallard were defending well as both sides dug in during the early exchanges in the second period.

It was 2-1 to United on the hour mark and it is a goal Richard Brush in the home goal will want to forget. The keeper racing out of his box to head it clear but he misjudged it and United's Conor McCloskey pounced on his mistake to shoot into the empty goal.

Ballinamallard thought they had leveled in the 66th minute. Ryan Mayse's shot beat Glendinning but was just inches wide.

Friel had another chance for the Sky Blues a minute later but his left foot effort was just off target.

Ballymena were awarded a penalty in the 79th minute when David Elliott used his hands in the box and there can be no complaints.

Friel stepped up to score his 20th goal of the season but Brush saved his spot kick.

In the 83rd minute skipper Ervin came to United's rescue again as he recovered to block a Mayse effort.

Ballijnamallard United: Brush, McLaughlin, Taheny (Mullen 77mins), Feeney (Frempong 59mins), McGinty, Lafferty, McCartney (Owens 75mins, Morris, Mayse, Elliott, Hutchinson.

Subs not used:McCann and McGrath.

Ballymena United: Glendinning, Owens, Thompson (McKinney 73mins), Jenkins, McCloskey, Faulkner, Friel (Braniff 87mins) Ervin, Millar, McMurray, Loughran.

Subs not used: Allen, McCaffrey, Kerr.

Referee: B Connolly.