Allan Jenkins ended Ballymena United’s recent run of failures from the penalty spot by netting the only goal in a 1-0 win at Ballinamallard United today.
The Scot blasted home a 69th minute winner at Ferney Park to help increase the cushion between United and the sides below them in the Danske Bank Premiership table.
With Matthew Tipton suspended and teenager Matthew Shevlin in Russia with the Northern Ireland under-19 squad, manager Glenn Ferguson handed a rare start to summer signing Mark Magennis, with the former Harland & Wolff Welders player deployed in a role behind makeshift striker Jenkins.
Both sides struggled to put together sustained periods of pressure in a game played in sheeting rain throughout.
Ballymena might have gone in front inside the opening minute when Allan Jenkins harried Mallards defender Emmet Friars into giving away possession on the edge of his own penalty area but Magennis’ snap-shot flew wide.
The visitors again forged a decent opening on 13 minutes when David Cushley’s cross from the left was met by the in-rushing Allan Jenkins, but the Scot’s effort went wide of the near post.
United enjoyed a remarkable let-off on 27 minutes when Kyle McVey’s back-pass fell well short of keeper Dwayne Nelson. Steve Feeney nipped in but could only steer his shot wide of the keeper’s post - a gilt-edged chance.
That had come just seconds after McVey was fortunate not to have a penalty awarded against him after he instinctively blocked the ball with his hand after Johnny Lafferty had tried to flick the ball past the defender.
Ballymena had penalty appeals on their own waved away after they claimed Neal Gawley’s corner had flicked off a hand but referee Ross Dunlop remained unmoved.
The second half continued to struggle to find any real tempo and the first chance didn’t come until the hour mark when David Cushley’s shot was palmed around the post by McCusker, who hobbled throughout most of the game after picking up an early injury..
But Cushley was involved as the deadlock was broken nine minutes later.
It came after a neat interchange between Eoin Kane and Magennis with the latter firing in a low cross which Cushley attempted to get on the end of, only to be upended by defender Liam McMenamin’s challenge.
Referee Ross Dunlop pointed to the spot and after three successive penalty failures by three different players in recent weeks, Allan Jenkins grabbed the ball and smashed his effort straight up the middle past the diving McCusker.
Cushley had a chance to double United’s lead on 77 minutes when he cut inside from the left but his low right-footed shot was palmed out by McCusker.
At the other end, United withstood a late spell of Ballinamallard pressure but keeper Nelson was rarely troubled as United claimed an important win.
Ballinamallard United: McCusker, McMenamin, McLaughlin, Feeney, McCabe (sub Lecky 74), Lafferty, McCartney, Currie (sub Klobusek 83), Beacom, Campbell (sub Courtney 74), Friars. Subs (not used): Carters, McKenna .
Ballymena United: Nelson, Ervin, McVey, Rodger, Ruddy, Gawley (sub Henderson 84), T Kane, E Kane, Cushley (sub Millar 78), Magennis (sub Taylor 90+3), Jenkins. Subs (not used): McBride, Ferguson.
Referee: Ross Dunlop (Carrickfergus)