Ballymena United rediscover mojo with victory over Dungannon Swifts

Neal Gawley was on target for Ballymena United
Neal Gawley was on target for Ballymena United

Ballymena United returned to winning ways to progress to the semi-finals of the Wasp Solutions League Cup.

Goals from Tony Kane, Neal Gawley and Darren Boyce earned a spirited 3-1 victory over Dungannon Swifts at the Showgrounds.

The Sky Blues went into the game on the back of five straight defeats - their last win dating back to October 7 against Ballyclare Comrades in the third round of the same competition.

Kane swept home in the 21st minute before Gawley doubled the home side’s lead five minutes later.

Ryan Harpur converted a 40th-minute penalty for the Swifts to ensure a nervy night for Ballymena, but Boyce settled the tie seven minutes from time with a crucial goal against his former club.

Ballymena broke the deadlock in the 21st minute with a clinical strike from Kane.

Tipton picked up possession down the right channel, and when he fed the ball into Kane the defender swept a first-time strike past Andy Coleman.

David Cushley almost made it 2-0 in the 26th minute, but after robbing Fra Brennan of possession, Cushley’s shot was parried by Coleman before Douglas Wilson cleared the ball off the line.

Seconds later Coleman was forced into another fine diving save to palm Tipton’s glancing header away from goal.

Dungannon’s defence was left exposed as Ballymena doubled their lead in the 34th minute.

Kane was afforded too much time on the right, and when he delivered a cross to the middle Gawley was left unmarked to finish off from eight yards.

Dungannon were back in the game in the 40th minute when Davy Munster brought down Andrew Mitchell inside the area.

Up stepped Harpur to hammer home the resulting penalty with gusto.

Dungannon were denied by the woodwork in the 79th minute when David Armstrong’s header rattled the crossbar.

They were made to pay four minutes later as Boyce ensured Ballymena’s win with a clinical right-foot strike.

Mitchell squandered a late chance in injury time when he headed over from close range.

BALLYMENA: Nelson, T. Kane, Munster, Jenkins, Stewart, Gawley, Thompson (E. Kane 76), Surgenor, McCaul, Cushley (Boyce 50), Tipton.

Subs not used: McCullagh, Graham, Ferguson.

DUNGANNON: Coleman, Burns (Douglas 84), Armstrong, Brennan, Wilson, Hazley, Harpur (McCullough 69), Hutchinson, Mitchell, Glackin, Sanusi (Tomelty 72).

Subs not used: Fitzpatrick, Lavery.

Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast)