Ballymena United 1, Glenavon 4

Ballymena United defender Stephen McBride holds his head in his hands as Glenavon's Kyle Neill wheels away in celebration after opening the scoring in today's Danske Bank Premiership game at the Showgrounds. Picture: Press Eye.
Ballymena United defender Stephen McBride holds his head in his hands as Glenavon's Kyle Neill wheels away in celebration after opening the scoring in today's Danske Bank Premiership game at the Showgrounds. Picture: Press Eye.

Ballymena United slipped out of the top six of the Danske Bank Premiership for the first time this season after an emphatic defeat by Glenavon at the Showgrounds.

The Sky Blues relinquished their unbeaten home record in the league as their miserable run of recent form continued.

Manager Glenn Ferguson’s response to the previous week’s defeat at Portadown was to make four changes with Mark McCullagh, Davy Munster, Gavin Taggart and Alan Davidson replacing Tony Kane, Johnny Taylor, Gary Thompson and skipper Allan Jenkins.

As both sides struggled to adapt to a howling wind blowing towards the Fisherwick end, Glenavon had the first effort at goal as Kevin Braniff’s speculative shot had United keeper Dwayne Nelson scuttling across his goal as the ball drifted wide.

United’s first chance came four minutes later as Alan Teggart got the break of the ball in a tackle in midfield and slipped a pass through to Alan Davidson but the midfielder could only shoot tamely at Alan Blayney with his weaker left foot.

A David Cushley tackle on Kevin Braniff prompted an angry response from Glenavon’s players and once calm had been restored, referee Tim Marshall booked Cushley and Glenavon skipper Shane McCabe.

Despite the windy conditions, Nelson showed good handling to pluck a couple of dangerous set-pieces out of the air and the keeper also tipped over Kyle Neill’s dangerous inswinging free kick.

On a rare occasion when either side got the ball down onto the playing surface, United created a good chance when Alan Teggart’s cross from the left was inches too far ahead of the in-rushing Matthew Tipton.

Davidson’s pass then set Neal Gawley away down the left flank and the winger outpaced Paddy McNallly before shooting wastefully wide of the near post with only Blayney to beat.

Glenavon went in front in the last minute of the half after a flowing move started by Kevin Braniff ended with Eoin Bradley’s cross from the right channel being swept home by the in-rushing Kyle Neill.

Ballymena, with the wind at their backs after the break, started the second half on the attack and Kyle McVey’s close-range effort following a Gawley cross was saved at the foot of the post by Blayney.

Instead it was the visitors who doubled their advantage on 54 minutes as Paddy McNally helped the ball forward into the path of Bradley who showed good strength to hold off Stephen McBride before giving Nelson no chance with a fierce drive from 12 yards.

And the outcome was put beyond any doubt on 72 minutes with a catastrophic third goal, from United’s point of view.

Keeper Nelson delayed in clearing a back-pass, allowing Rhys Marshall to charge down his clearance. As the ball spun into the air, the goalkeeper dropped what should have been a routine catch, allowing Marshall a clear run on goal to tap into an unguarded net.

Ballymena tried to find a way back into the game but the closest they came was when McVey’s close-range effort in a goalmouth scramble was brilliantly blokced by by McNally,

Glenavon set the seal on an emphatic victory on 83 minutes as player/manager Gary Hamilton played a neat one-two with Andy McGrory in the left hand corner of the penalty area before curling a shot beyond the exposed Nelson.

Ballymena grabbed a late consolation goal when substitute Allan Jenkins nodded home at the back post from a Matthew Tipton cross but overall it was a miserable afternoon for the home side.

Ballymena United: Nelson, McCullagh, McVey, Munster, McBride (sub Boyce 57), Teggart, Davidson (sub Jenkins 57), Taggart, Gawley, Cushley, Tipton. Subs (not used): Stewart, Ruddy, McCaul.

Glenavon: Blayney, McKeown, Dillon, McNally, Singleton (sub Martyn 85), Marshall, Caldwell, McCabe, Neill (sub McGrory 80), Braniff, Bradley (sub Hamilton 59). Subs (not used): Murphy, Kilmartin.

Referee: Tim Marshall (Irvinestown).