Warrenpoint Town 2 Ballymena Utd 0
Warrenpoint Town picked up an important three points and got their 2015 off to the best possible start as Daniel Hughes’ double helped his side get the better of a lacklustre Ballymena United at Milltown.
Scoreless at the break, the home side took control of the tie after the break and Hughes, who is believed to be interesting a number of other Premiership clubs in the January transfer window, struck twice in windy conditions to move Barry Gray’s men three points closer to Institute in the table.
Warrenpoint could and should have taken the lead as early as the fourth minute when Ciaran O’Connor found Daniel Hughes inside the box but the ‘Point’s top scorer could only volley over the bar when he should have at least made Ballymena keeper Stuart Addis work.
Matthew Tipton shot wide a minute later before Mark McCullagh saw his goalbound header cleared off the line by Mark Hughes on the quarter hour as Glenn Ferguson’s visitors began to threaten. O’Connor almost got on the end of a low Darren King ball from the right on 25 minutes but was inches away top sliding home the opener while United captain Allan Jenkins went agonisingly close to connecting with Darren Boyce’s cross a minute before the interval as the sides went in level at the break.
The second half saw Daniel Hughes again have the opening chances but his curling 30-yard free-kick was superbly tipped over the bar by Addis on 52 minutes. Ballymena’s best chance up until that stage came three minutes later when Jenkins weaved his way through but he poked his shot over the bar.
Then after Addis had come of his line well to deny Liam Bagnall two minutes after the hour mark, Warrenpoint eventually broke the deadlock six minutes later. O’Connor was hauled down in the penalty area by McCullagh and Referee Ross Dunlop pointed to the spot. Daniel Hughes stepped up to send Addis the wrong way from 12 yards for his tenth goal of the season to make it 1-0.
It could have been two just a couple of minutes later when O’Connor went on a surging run down the right but opted to shoot rather than pull it back to Hughes who was better placed and only found the side netting.
However, Hughes made the result secure for the home side seven minutes from time when he was played in down the right wing and, as Addis advanced, the in-form striker slid the ball underneath the keeper and into the bottom left corner of the net from an acute angle.
Stephen Hughes had an opportunity to put the icing on the cake for Warrenpoint a minute into tome added on but he swept the ball over the bar from 15 yards after a swift counter-attack.