IRISH LEAGUE: Glens get back on winning trail at Ballymena

Glentoran's Marcus Kane celebrates with his teammates after putting his side 1-0 ahead in the first half.
Glentoran's Marcus Kane celebrates with his teammates after putting his side 1-0 ahead in the first half.

Ballymena United 1, Glentoran 3

GLENTORAN got back on the winning trail with an impressive victory over Ballymena United at the Showgrounds.

The Ovalmen who fell to their first defeat of the season at Linfield last weekend, came out on top in an action-packed clash against the Braidmen whose two game winning run came to an abrupt end.

The hosts will feel they deserved more as Conor McCloskey hit the woodwork in either half. But despite their early dominance Marcus Kane headed the Glens in front close to the half hour mark and Curtis Allen doubled the East Belfast men's advantage on 61 minutes.

Almost immediately Ballymena hit back through Cathair Friel but John McGuigan's free-kick curled into the top corner to make sure of the three points with seven minutes to go.

David Jeffrey made an enforced change to his starting line-up prior to kick-off as Emmet Friars pulled up with a calf strain in the warm-up and was replaced by Jonathan Flynn.

Glentoran goalscorer, Curtis Allen in action against Ballymena United.

Glentoran goalscorer, Curtis Allen in action against Ballymena United.

That was the only change to the Ballymena team which started in the win over Warrenpoint Town last week.

Glentoran, meanwhile were unchanged from the team who lost narrowly to Linfield at Windsor Park.

United came so close to the breakthrough on 10 minutes as Kevin Braniff's beautifully disguised pass played Conor McCloskey through on goal but his left footed strike cannoned back off the crossbar.

Cathair Friel's 25 yard strike was then beaten away by Glens keeper, Elliott Morris as United sensed an opener.

The home side had big claims for a penalty when Friel went down under the challenge of Glens' defender, Calum Birney on 20 minutes but referee, Ian McNabb waved play on.

The Braidmen won a free-kick wide on the left and from Tony Kane's delivery, Kyle Owens headed wide of the target under pressure.

Ballymena boss, Jeffrey was forced into reshuffling his pack once again as the injured Braniff was replaced by Joseph McKinney.

Glentoran stepped it up as the half hour mark approached and when John McGuigan won the chase with United keeper his curling effort from the edge of the penalty area was headed off the line by Kane with Brennan back-pedalling.

Despite Ballymena's dominance in the opening stages it was Glentoran who broke the deadlock from Ross Redman's free-kick on 29 minutes. United keeper, Brennan found himself in no-man's land as the ball came into his area and Marcus Kane rose highest to head into the unguarded net from close range.

The visitors were in the ascendancy after the goal but Ballymena skipper, Jim Ervin's strike from the edge of the Glens' area needed to be parried away by Morris.

And Ervin came agonisingly close to finding the target five minutes before the interval with an ambitious strike from 35 yards which went narrowly the wrong side of the post.

McCloskey probably should've scored on 43 minutes when he got on the end of a superb cross from Steven McCullough but his downward header was palmed away by Morris.

The home side made an encouraging start to the second half and when McKinney found Gary Thompson who made a clever run into the Glentoran box, the latter couldn't get enough power in his shot to trouble Morris who gathered cleanly.

Glentoran doubled their lead on 61 minutes when Allen, who netted a hat-trick on his last visit to the Showgrounds, got onto McGuigan's cross and his downward header bounced into the net.

Just over 60 seconds later United were back in the game following a scramble inside the Glentoran penalty area following a long throw-in. When the ball eventually broke to Friel, he poked the ball into the far corner.

The impressive Kane delivered an inviting ball to the back post on 74 minutes as Ballymena went for an equaliser but McCloskey's header clipped the top of the crossbar.

Glentoran defender, Jonathan Addis then saw his close range header parried clear by Brennan.

However, McGuigan made certain of the victory with seven minutes to go as his free-kick from wide on the left caught out Brennan and sailed into the far top corner.

Stephen Gordon struck the foot of the post with an overhead kick from McGuigan's free-kick in the final minute of the game but the Belfast men had done enough to clinch three big points.

Ballymena United: Conor Brennan; Tony Kane, Jonathan Flynn, Kyle Owens, Michael Gault; Gary Thompson, Cathair Friel, Kevin Braniff (Joseph McKinney 27), Jim Ervin, Stephen McCullough (Willie Faulkner 67), Conor McCloskey (Francis McCaffrey 86); Subs Not Used - Ross Glendinning, Kofi Balmer.

Glentoran: Elliott Morris; Nathan Kerr, Ross Redman, Jonathan Addis, Calum Birney, Marcus Kane (Tiarnan McNicholl 61); Corey McMullan, James Knowles (Daniel Kelly 56), John McGuigan; Curtis Allen, Robbie McDaid (Stephen Gordon 76); Subs Not Used - Jonathan Smith, Conal Delaney.

Referee - Ian McNabb.