Ballymena United 3, Newington YC 0

Ballymena United.
Ballymena United.

Ballymena United cruised into the third round of the WASP Solutions League Cup with a comfortable win over Championship Two side Newington.

Manager Glenn Ferguson made eight changes to his starting line-up from the weekend, with only keeper Dwayne Nelson, defender Davy Munster and winger Alan Teggart retained from the weekend win at Dungannon.

But it was still a United line-up laden with first team experience, while Ferguson also opted for the extra insurance of naming five first team regulars on the substitutes’ bench.

Darren Boyce had United’s first opening in the first minute but after making space for himself in the penalty area, his fiercely struck shot came back off the chest of Newington keeper Dean Smyth, who knew little about it but did well to keep the effort out.

United threatened again on eight minutes as Alan Teggart burst clear and rounded the keeper but his shot lacked power and was cleared off the line by covering defender Liam Bradley.

Newington posed a threat with their intricate passing and Peter Gilgunn burst into the penalty area only for Aaron Stewart to take the ball off his toe at the expense of a corner.

Boyce headed a Tony Kane corner wide, while at the other end, Newington full-back Desy McClean unleashed a fierce drive which beat Nelson but hit the side netting.

Ballymena suffered a blow on 20 minutes when Gary Thompson - making his first appearance of the season after completing a suspension following his Irish Cup final red card - limped off with his leg heavily strapped, following an earlier block challenge.

There was better fortune, however, for the other player returning from a ban, Tony Kane, as he fired Ballymena in front on 25 minutes.

Awarded a free kick 25 yards from goal following a foul on Boyce, Kane took a minimal run-up before unleashing a stunning drive into the top corner, with keeper Smyth motionless.

The visitors almost got back on level terms five minutes before the break after debutant Brian McCaul lost possession in the centre circle and Newington broke quickly, culminating in Kevin O’Neill firing a shot inches wide of Nelson’s goal.

Ballymena doubled their lead three minutes into the second half when McCaul’s through ball saw Darren Boyce beat the offside trap and confidently slotted past the advancing Smyth.

Right-back Aaron Harris played a beautifully measured pass into the path of substitute Matthew Tipton but the in-form striker blazed his shot high and wide when well placed.

Newington went close twice in quick succession as Conor Glenholmes’ shot was blocked in a goalmouth melee, while from the resultant corner, substitute Joe Finlay just couldn’t make decisive contact from five yards out.

United scored a game-clinching third goal on 69 minutes when Tony Kane’s ball released Tipton who lobbed the ball over the advancing keeper before a sickening collision between both players, who required treatment.

Tipton thankfully was able to walk off unattended and was immediately replaced by David Cushley, with Ferguson taking no chances with his talismanic striker. Newington goalkeeper Smyth was also able to continue after a five-minute delay.

And the keeper showed no ill effects as he produced a brave block with his body after Darren Boyce had been sent clear by McCaul.

Newington kept battling until the end but the closest they came was when McClean’s volley on the turn was straight at Nelson.

United finished the game with 10 men as left-back Michael Ruddy left the pitch with an ice pack on his left foot, with Ballymena having used their three substitutes.

Ballymena United: Nelson, Harris, Munster (sub Taylor 56), Stewart, Ruddy, T Kane, Thompson (sub Tipton 20, sub Cushley 70), Surgenor, Teggart, Boyce, McCaul. Subs (not used): Taggart, Gawley.

Newington YC: Smyth, R Brannigan, McClean, O’Kane, Adams, O’Neill (sub Finlay 64), Burns (sub Glenholmes 29), Gilgunn, Niblock, Bradley, C Brannigan. Subs (not used): Rafferty, McMenamin.

Referee: Peter McGrath (Newtownabbey)