GLENAVON 3 BALLYMENA UNITED 1
Eoin Bradley once again haunted Ballymena United with a second hat-trick in as many games against the Braidmen.
Usually games between Glenavon and the Sky Blues tend to be goalfests and this encounter was no exception.
United took a deserved lead after just 12 minutes when Allan Jenkins’s cross was headed back across goal by Matthew Tipton, leaving home keeper Jonathan Tuffey stranded and David Cushley free to head into an empty net.
Jenkins, in truth, could have had a first half hat-trick. He should have scored when he tried to tap in a Cushley free kick which took everyone by surprise, only for Tuffey to react quickly and save low.
Then, as Simon Kelly tried to clear a low pass by William Faulkner, the ball came back off Kris Lindsay and fell kindly for Jenkins who couldn’t convert.
From that move Glenavon went up the pitch and Andy Kilmartin fired wide from the edge of the box.
The home side pulled level on 41 minutes. Kevin Braniff played a lovely pass to Andy Hall, who ran into the box before passing for Eoin Bradley to slide the ball home.
And they almost took the lead when Lindsay scooped over after getting onto the end of a long throw by Conor Dillon.
Braniff had a further chance at the start of the second half when he was teed up by a Kyle Neill free kick to shoot from 30 yards, but it missed the target.
Neill headed wide from a great position in front of goal following a Braniff cross, while at the other end Cushley’s half volley, following a great run into the box by Gary Thompson, was narrowly off target.
There was a key moment just after the hour mark when teen sensation Matthew Shevlin had a shot block with a fantastic save by Tuffey. Matthew Tipton hit the rebound hard with Andy Kilmartin handballing and referee Raymond Crangle awarding a penalty. Cushley stepped up to hit the spot kick and Tuffey again came to the rescue, diving low and to his right to make a fantastic save.
Tuffey’s opposite number, Dwayne Nelson, pulled out two great blocks to deny Andy Hall and Bradley on 76 minutes.
And Bradley was to give Glenavon the lead, although only he will know how much he knew about the goal. Hall fired in a corner which seemed to bounce off the striker for his second of the afternoon.
Bradley’s hat-trick was completed when Tony Kane handballed a cross by substitute Mark Patton. Nelson stopped Bradley’s penalty, but the big man dived in to head home the loose ball for 3-1.
GLENAVON: Tuffey, Neill, Kelly, Dillon, Lindsay (c), Marshall, Bradley, Hall, Kilmartin, Buckley, Braniff. Subs: Patton (Neill 71), Sykes (Kelly 65), McGrory, Hamilton (Braniff 77), Lynch.
BALLYMENA UNITED: Nelson, Kane, McVey, Taylor, Ervin, Faulkner, Thompson, Jenkins, Cushley, Tipton, Shevlin. Subs: Magennis (Thompson 87), Taggart, Henderson (Shevlin 77), Ruddy, Gawley.
REFEREE: Raymond Crangle.