Ards 2 Ballinamallard Utd 0
Ards took another big step towards securing the Premiership status with an impressive win over Ballinamallard United at the Bangor Fuels Arena.
A first half penalty from Michael Ruddy and second half strike from in form forward Guillaume Keke handed Ards the three points in an entertaining affair. The win sees the Red & Blues stretch their lead over the Fermanagh club to four points, with Ards in ninth and Ballinamallard in ten.
The Championship champions cannot now finish last in this season’s Danske Bank Premership.
Ards started brightly and could have landed the lead as early as the third minute when Carl McComb latched onto a pass from Michael Ruddy. Striker McComb looked set to score but the alert Richard Brush rushed off his line to smother the ball.
McComb had another chance in the 17th minute. He got onto the end of a Guillaume Keke cross, but his near post shot was blocked by the alert Brush.
Ballinamallard’s best chance of the first half arrived in the 32nd minute when Jonny Lafferty found himself free at the back post, but the former Dergview man headed the corner-kick over the crossbar from around six yards.
Ards made the breakthrough in the 37th minute when Peter McGrath awarded Colin Nixon’s side a spot kick. A short back-pass left Mallards goalkeeper Brush in trouble, and he clipped Keke as the Frenchman tried to nip round the Irishman.
Michael Ruddy stepped up to the mark and scored his ninth penalty of the season, giving Brush no chance.
Ards could have added a second in the 41st minute when David McAllister’s left-flank cross was header over by Keke, who couldn’t keep his header down.
At half-time Ards were worth their first half lead, although the Mallards support though they had two good penalty shouts.
The Red & Blues had a chance to extend their lead ten minutes into the second half, when Keke found some room on the left-flank, but his low cross was deflected wide, when a goal looked certain.
The former Larne man did find the net in the 64th minute. Josh Doherty picked out McAllister on the left-wing, who found Keke at the near post. The Parisian smashed the ball home from close range, with the aid of the underside of the crossbar.
With ten-minute left on the clock, the Mallards started to apply some pressure. An 80th minute corner-kick bounced around inside the area before Ards forward Keke made an impressive goal-line clearance.
Ryan Mayse had a half chance to reduce Ards’ lead in the 87th minute but his effort could only find the side netting.
Ards: Hogg; Hall, Taylor, Friars, Ruddy; Tommons (89 Arthurs), McCullough, Doherty, McAllister (77 Hughes); Keke, McComb (84 Liggett)
Subs: Arthurs, Bradley, Hughes, Liggett, Shevlin
Ballinamallard United: Brush; Morris, Frempong, McLaughlin, Elliot (61 McIlwaine (67 Mullan)),McGinty, McCartney, Lafferty, Hutchinson (50 McCann); Curran, Mayse
Subs Not Used: McGrath, Tahney
Ref: Peter McGrath