Glenavon 2, Ballymena United 1

Ballymena United skipper Allan Jenkins hurdles a challenge from Glenavon's Ciaran Martyn during Friday night's Danske Bank Premiership game at Mourneview Park. Picture: Press Eye.
Ballymena United skipper Allan Jenkins hurdles a challenge from Glenavon's Ciaran Martyn during Friday night's Danske Bank Premiership game at Mourneview Park. Picture: Press Eye.

Ballymena United suffered their first defeat of the Danske Bank Premiership campaign in an incident-packed game at Mourneview Park.

There was controversy by the bucketload as the Lurgan Blues triumphed in a repeat of the scoreline in the sides’ previous meeting in the Irish Cup final in May.

Ballymena will feel aggrieved at not taking something from the game but they paid the price for wasting a raft of chances and conceded a goal following a dreadful refereeing mistake when Glenavon were erroneously awarded a corner kick.

Both sides also finished with 10 men after Glenavon’s SHane McCabe and Ballymena skipper Allan Jenkins were sent off following a flare-up.

After making eight changes for the midweek League Cup win over Newington, manager Glenn Ferguson reverted back to the line-up which started the previous Saturday’s league win at Dungannon Swifts.

Ballymena suffered an early blow when they conceded a goal inside the opening five minutes.

Kyle Neill delivered a pacey corner which was met with a flashing near post header by Kris Lindsay.

United almost replied a minute later when David Cushley cut inside onto his left foot and unleashed a fierce drive which was pushed away by former Ballymena keeper Alan Blayney.

As Ballymena attempted to find a way back into the match, Cushley collected a pass and neatly rolled defender Gareth McKeown but his first time effort drifted wide of the post.

Cushley was again through on goal as he chased a long clearance from Dwayne Nelson but Cushley slipped and clattered into keeper Blayney, resulting in a free kick to Glenavon rather than the penalty that Ferguson was appealing for on the touchline.

A misplaced back header from the halfway line from Glenavon debutant put Cushley clean through on goal but as he nicked the ball past Blayney, the former Northern Ireland international keeper got a decisive touch to clear the danger.

Then Cushley attempted to latch onto a Gavin Taggart header but as he attempted to hit a dropping ball on the volley, his effort went over the bar.

And United’s leading scorer for each of the past two seasons missed another clear opening in first half stoppage time when he collected a Matthew Tipton pass and beat Rhys Marshal but with only the advancing Blayney to beat, he could only clip his shot wide of the far post.

Glenavon had a chance 10 minutes into the second half when Ciaran Caldwell’s cross from the right was headed back across goal by Andy McGrory but Ciaran Martyn could only steer his header wide of the target.

At the other end, a clever pass from Tipton once again sent Cushley clear but he could only blaze his shot wildly off target.

Then from a Taggart through ball, Marshall struggled with the bouncing ball allowing substitute Darren Boyce in on goal but once again Blayney was quickly off his line to block.

The game took a controversial twist on 65 minutes when Glenavon scored a second goal following a glaring mistake by referee Raymond Hetherington.

When Glenavon’s Gareth McKeown miscued his shot wide for a goal kick, the Dungannon official awarded a corner and when Rhys Marshall’s initial header from Kyle Neill’s corner was headed off the line by Stephen McBride, the young defender was on hand to nod home the rebound.

Glenavon almost put the game beyond doubt a minute later when Eoin Bradley latched onto a mistake by Johnny Taylor but he could only steer his shot beyond Nelson’s far post.

Ballymena were still infuriated by the second goal and a minute later a flare-up developed in the middle of the pitch between Darren Boyce and Kris Lindsay which saw players from both sides join in.

WHen the dust settled, referee Hetherington produced red cards for Glenavon’s Shane McCabe and Ballymena skipper Allan Jenkins..

Ballymena continued to battle for a way into the game and when Tony Kane’s cross from the right was pulled down by Tipton, the striker forced a brilliant instinctive save from Blayney.

Substitute Mark Surgenor was next to force an opening after Blayney dropped a high ball but as Surgenor prodded the ball towards goal, the ball deflected wide off Ciaran Caldwell and Ballymena’s protests for a handball only resulted in a corner and a yellow card for Surgenor.

Ballymena eventually found the net on 85 minutes when Tipton’s pass put Cushley clear and he neatly clipped the ball over Blayney into the net to set up a grandstand finish.

Ballymena almost earned a point in the closing stages but Gavin Taggart’s dipping volley was turned over by Blayney, while in stoppage time, Tipton glanced a header wide from a Taylor cross.

Glenavon: Blayney, Marshall, McKeown, Lindsay, Neill, McGrory, Caldwell, McCabe, Martyn, Bradley (sub Bates 76), Braniff (sub Hamilton 73). Subs (not used): McCallion, Murphy, Kilmartin.

Ballymena United: Nelson, McCullagh (sub Kane 74), Munster, Taylor, McBride, Gawley (sub Surgenor 74), Taggart (sub Boyce 60), Jenkins, Teggart, Cushley, Tipton. Subs (not used): Stewart, Ruddy.

Referee: Raymond Hetherington (Dungannon).