GLENAVON: Andrew Burns red sparks four-goal win as Ballymena United lose
On a night of four goals and three points which sent Glenavon into top spot in the table, the post-match discussion centred on a single moment.
Andrew Burns’ red card before the break - with the scoreline blank - handed Glenavon a platform to go on and cut short Ballymena United’s unbeaten start to the league season.
Aaron Harmon, Josh Daniels, Stephen Murray and Andy Hall left the Lurgan Blues with plenty to celebrate but Ballymena left to reflect on the blow of Burns’ dismissal.
A free-flowing start and fiery finish dominated the first-half talking points as Glenavon posed an early threat but Ballymena grew in confidence and creativity.
Josh Daniels tested the Ballymena backline over the first few minutes - with Ballymena’s best chance arriving around the half-hour mark when Andrew Mitchell had to head off his own line.
However, the main talking point arrived on 44 minutes as referee Steven Gregg dismissed Burns following a sliding challenge on Mark Sykes.
A Sykes swerve created space on the edge of the area, with his progress stopped by Burns’ tackle. Gregg issued red to hand the upper hand to the hosts.
Burns was in the spotlight inside the initial attacking play when Daniels and Gary Muir combined for a cross which Stephen Donnelly attacked and the Ballymena defender’s sliced clearance squirmed past his own post.
Daniels’ shot then lacked the power to significantly test Ross Glendinning. However, aside from the driving runs from deep of Sykes, Ballymena enjoyed the majority of possession.
Mitchell proved alert to head off the home line when James Knowles’ corner-kick was poked into the danger area by Ryan Mayse and Matthew Shevlin attacked the ball - only to have the Glenavon forward protect the clean sheet.
Jonny Tuffey was alert to push a curling free-kick by Steven McCullough past his post, with Shane McGinty the main attacking threat for the visitors.
Only a James Singleton block in the box stopped Shevlin finding space off McGinty’s pass.
The Ballymena reshuffle turned a first-half three-man backline into a second-half flat-back four in consideration of the red card.
A golden opportunity arrived moments before Harmon’s slick strike when Knowles’ free-kick floated into the Glenavon box was flicked goalwards by Jonny Addis but Tuffey’s positioning proved perfect to collect.
Glenavon grabbed control, however, on 58 minutes when McCullough lost possession on the right to Rhys Marshall. He fed Sykes and a superb angled return pass was picked up by his marauding team-mate - with the sliderule ball steered in by Harmon from outside the box inside Ross Glendinning’s right-hand post.
Dylan King then stepped off the substitutes’ bench and enjoyed an assist with his first touch of the evening.
A deep free-kick towards the far post was headed home by Daniels on the run, with the looping effort dropping home to double Glenavon’s grip on proceedings.
Another substitute, Murray, left Glenavon clear by three on 76 minutes.
Daniels’ determination out wide kept play alive and his ball into the heart of the box was controlled by Murray with his back to goal from a few yards. Murray’s swivel ended with a shot hooked goalwards as Scot Whiteside attempted to block the shot.
Although there seemed some debate over the decisive touch there was little to discuss about Glenavon’s fourth goal of the game.
Daniels once again proved at the centre of the positive approach play and he picked out his fellow winger, with Hall capping the move with a simple close-range shot.
GLENAVON: Tuffey, Marron, Daniels, Marshall, Mitchell, Sykes, Hall, Donnelly (Murray, 46), Harmon, Muir (Doherty, 46), Singleton (King, 65).
Subs (not used): Grace, McCloskey, Lindsay, Jenkins.
BALLYMENA UNITED: Ross Glendinning, Addis, Whiteside, Mayse, McGinty, Knowles, McCullough, Burns, Shevlin (Kane, 61), McGrory, Winchester (Millar, 84).
Subs (not used): McDermott, Faulkner, Ervin, Leckey, Reece Glendinning.