United prove too strong for Glebe in Shield tie
Ballymena United cruised into the quarter-final of the Toals County Antrim Shield with a comfortable 5-0 win over Glebe Rangers.
Even with eight changes from the weekend draw against Ballinamallard, the Sky Blues still had too much firepower for the Championship Two outfit, as they stretched their unbeaten run to six games in all competitions.
Ballymena come close to opening the scoring from an unlikely source as skipper Jim Ervin burst into the penalty area but his effort was blocked behind by defender Alan Sheapard.
From the resultant corner, defender Paddy McNally flashed a shot inches wide.
But McNally wasn’t to be denied as he put United ahead on 19 minutes, heading home powerfully from six yards from Neal Gawley’s free kick near the touchline.
"Huge question mark" over North West 200 in 2023, warns Mervyn Whyte
‘Still hope for North West 200’ says Ulster road racing legend Phillip McCallen
Linfield hit by two-goal lead loss in late Europa first-leg drama
Oran Kearney pays tribute to Gareth McConaghie on his retirement
Phillip McCallen optimistic Ulster Grand Prix will return in 2023 as talks resume with Tourism NI
The home side should have doubled their advantage on 25 minutes when they cleared a Glebe free kick and then counter-attacked at pace with Tony Kane threading a through ball to Ervin but as the skipper bore down on goal, he could only shoot tamely at keeper Christopher Fullerton.
The reprieve was short-lived for Glebe, however, as on 27 minutes, Neal Gawley put the Premiership side two goals up with a flashing near post header from David Cushley’s left-wing cross.
Cushley was again involved in United’s third on 32 minutes when his low cross found its way to the back post where Darren Henderson was on hand to steer the ball past Fullerton.
Former Ballymena winger Mo McDowell was Glebe’s most threatening player in the opening half with a number of efforts at goal, the best of them an instinctive first-time shot from just outside the centre circle which dropped just over the crossbar, to the relief of back-pedalling keeper Dwayne Nelson.
Glebe came close at the start of the second half when William Beckett’s header from Mo McDowell’s free kick was deflected narrowly wide of the post.
Ballymena underlined their dominance with two goals in quick succession around the hour mark.
Firstly Mark Magennis found himself in a good position before unselfishly squaring the ball into the path of Gary Thompson. The midfielder’s initial effort was blocked by keeper Fullerton but Thompson followed up to drill home the rebound.
And within a couple of minutes, David Cushley arrived to steer home Gawley’s low cross from the right.
Ballymena came close to adding a sixth on 71 minutes as Darren Henderson’s low shot was kept out by the outstretched leg of Fullerton.
Glebe came close to a consolation five minutes from the end as substitute Paul Lyttle’s shot was blocked by Nelson, with the keeper able to gather the loose ball at the feet of an in-rushing attacker.
Ballymena almost had the final say as Tony Kane’s effort came back off the post but the senior side ran out comfortable winners.
Ballymena United: Nelson, T Kane, McNally, McVey, Ervin (sub McBride 46), Gawley, Thompson, Ferguson (sub Taggart 46), Cushley (sub Faulkner 62), Magennis, Henderson. Subs (not used): Taylor, E Kane,
Glebe Rangers: Fullerton, Shaw, Wilson, Sheapard, Dobbin, Beckett, Brown, Reid (sub Brace 61), Wilkinson, McDowell (sub Dunlop 68), McVicker (sub Lyttle 46). Subs (not used): Moore.
Referee: Ross Dunlop (Carrickfergus).