Ballymena United 3, Glenavon 1
BALLYMENA United reclaimed sixth spot in the Danske Bank Premiership after a superb comeback victory over third placed Glenavon at Warden Street.
It was a first league win for United over the Lurgan Blues since March 2014 and it was a crucial one as they rose above Glentoran in the standings with a first victory in three games.
The Sky Blues found themselves behind after just 80 seconds as Sammy Clingan netted his ninth penalty of the season when Kofi Balmer was adjudged to have handled inside the area.
However, the Braidmen showed great character as they bounced back with a Kevin Braniff strike on 12 minutes before second half strikes from Cathair Friel and Kyle Owens secured the points.
The match got the go-ahead following a mid morning pitch inspection and it was just 25 seconds old when Glenavon were awarded a penalty kick.
Bobby Burns drove into the Ballymena penalty area and his shot appeared to strike the arm of Balmer and referee, Raymond Hetherington immediately pointed at the spot.
Up stepped Clingan who tucked the resultant spotkick into the bottom left corner to give the Lurgan Blues the lead with 80 seconds elapsed on the clock!
It was a frantic opening and the visitors were fortunate the match official took no action on 10 minutes when Andrew Mitchell appeared to lash out at Balmer close to the corner flag - much to the annoyance of the home support.
Two minutes later and Ballymena were on level terms after Steven McCullough found Braniff with a superb ball from the left back position. The striker spotted Glenavon keeper, Jonathan Tuffey off his line and lobbed the ball sublimely over his head and into the net for his third of the season.
Owens went close with a header from Conor McCloskey's long throw-in from the left as play went end to end during a lively opening 25 minutes. Matthew Shevlin then sent a well struck volley into the hands of Tuffey after good work from Cathair Friel who headed down Owen's free-kick.
And on the half hour mark McCloskey found Tony Kane in behind the Glenavon back four with a superb ball but the midfielder's close range strike at the near post was parried behind.
There was controversy on 35 minutes when Joel Cooper went down under the challenge of Jim Ervin inside the Ballymena penalty area but the referee brandished a yellow card to the Glenavon winger for simulation.
Braniff's curling effort was kept in play at the back post by Shevlin before James Singleton managed to clear the danger off the line.
Ryhs Marshall sliced his effort high over the bar as he leaned back after Clingan's free-kick dropped kindly to him inside the Sky Blues box on 42 minutes.
McCloskey ran clean through on goal moments later after Braniff found him in space but the winger somehow poked his shot well wide of the target.
From Burns' curling free-kick Mitchell's glancing header had to be tipped over the bar by Glendinning as the visitors finished strongly.
Ballymena were on the backfoot for the opening 15 minutes of the second half but could've found themselves in front when Owens headed across the face of goal and Friel fired the wrong side of the post at full stretch.
Stephen McAlorum was sent through by McCullough on 68 minutes but he delayed his shot and Tuffey was quick off his line to block the effort.
Balmer then sent his speculative strike on the volley from a corner narrowly over the bar as the home side enjoyed an encouraging spell.
Glenavon midfielder, Mark Sykes dropped his shoulder and fired just wide of the target from 25 yards on 74 minutes.
And Sykes should really have found the net seconds later when he burst through the defence before poking his shot wide of the post.
Glenavon were made to rue those missed chances as Friel powered his header into the net from Tony Kane's corner kick as United took the lead for the first time in the game on 76 minutes.
Four minutes later the Sky Blues increased their lead as Owens slotted in from six yards following another well delivered Kane corner on 80 minutes.
It was a welcome three points for David Jeffrey's men and a thoroughly deserved victory.
Ballymena United - R. Glendinning; J. Ervin, K. Owens, K. Balmer, S. McCullough; C. McCloskey, S. McAlorum, A. Kane, M. Shevlin; K. Braniff, C. Friel; Subs Not Used - E. Friars, F. McCaffrey, J. McKinney, J. McNeill, C. Brennan.
Glenavon - J. Tuffey; R. Marshall, A. Doyle, C. Marron, J. Singleton; J. Daniels (A. McGrory 70), M. Sykes, S. Clingan (J. Jenkins 77), J. Cooper (A. Foley 81); A. Mitchell, B. Burns; Subs Not Used - S. Kelly, M. Griffin.
Referee - Raymond Hetherington.