Sky Blues suffer crushing defeat at Ballinamallard

Ballymena United's Matthew Tipton hooks the ball away from Ballinamallard's Liam McMenamin during today's Danske Bank Premiership match at Ferney Park. Picture: Press Eye.
Ballymena United's Matthew Tipton hooks the ball away from Ballinamallard's Liam McMenamin during today's Danske Bank Premiership match at Ferney Park. Picture: Press Eye.

Ballymena United conceded four goals for the second game in succession as they suffered a 4-2 defeat at Ballinamallard United today.

The Danske Bank Premiership’s most porous defence was breached four more times as they were taken apart by a breezy Ballinamallard side.

It was the Fermanagh outfit’s first league win since October and it was rarely in doubt against a woefully off-colour Ballymena side.

A raft of suspensions gave manager Glenn Ferguson the opportunity to freshen up his squad, with Matthew Tipton returning to spearhead the attack, releasing Allan Jenkins to return to his more familiar deeper role.

Kyle McVey replaced banned skipper Jim Ervin in the centre of defence, while Michael Smith was handed his first start in midfield since returning to the club for a second spell.

The home side made most of the early running and might well have been awarded a penalty on 14 minutes when debutant striker Stephen O’Flynn was sent tumbling by a combination of defender Paddy McNally and keeper Alan Blayney.

Referee Evan Boyce waved play on and the Ballygowan official incurred the further wrath of the home support a couple of minutes later as he blew to stop play with Jason McCartney bearing down on goal, because of a head injury to United’s McNally.

As the home side continued to dominate, James McKenna was just inches from connecting with Shane McCabe’s pinpoint cross from the left.

McCabe was again involved as he played a neat one-two with O’Flynn around the edge of the Ballymena penalty area before curling a shot just wide.

Ballinamallard finally got the goal their dominance deserved on 32 minutes as Ivan Sproule got past United left-back Stephen McBride and the former Northern Ireland international’s low cross was deflected to the back post where James McKenna was on hand to bundle home from close range.

The home side pressed hard for a second goal and after O’Flynn had hooked a half-cleared McCartney corner back towards goal, Matthew Tipton was on hand to hack the ball off the United goal-line.

It was merely a case of delaying the inevitable, however, as the Mallards deservedly doubled their lead through O’Flynn on 43 minutes.

For all his impressive play to that point, the striker’s goal owed a great deal to good fortune as his 25-yard free kick took a wicked deflecting off a Ballymena defender to completely wrong-foot Blayney.

O’Flynn might have added a third just before the break but he stretched awkwardly before scuffing a shot straight at Blayney from 12 yards. It proved to be the striker’s last contribution as he stretched his groin and was replaced at the break by Ryan Campbell.

Ballymena’s response at the start of the second half was virtually instant as Michael Smith fashioned a chance to cross from the left for the unmarked Matthew Tipton to nod past Alvin Rouse with only 15 seconds on the clock.

But Ballinamallard restored their two-goal advantage on 57 minutes when another teasing cross from Sproule was turned into his own net at full stretch by United defender Paddy McNally.

And Ballymena’s misery deepened on 63 minutes when Ryan Campbell’s pace proved too much for Kyle McVey’s despairing challenge and Jason McCartney tucked home the resultant penalty.

Glenn Ferguson used all his subs but the closest United came to a goal was when Gary Thompson’s shot clipped the top of the net on its way over, while Ballinamallard saw a number of effort deflected behind for corners as the home side looked threatening with every attack.

Ballymena’s blushes were spared further in the final minute as Blayney’s miscued clearance went to Johnny Lafferty but his effort went just wide.

The game ended with a crumb of consolation for Ballymena as substitute Leroy Miallr raced through to beat Rouse after being put through by a Gary Thompson through ball - the homegrown winger’s first senior goal for United.

Ballinamallard United: Rouse, Crilly (sub Dykes 77), McMenamin, Friars, Elliott, McCabe (sub Lecky 81), McKenna, Lafferty, McCartney, Sproule, O’Flynn (sub Campbell 46). Subs (not used): Falconer, Mayse.

Ballymena United: Blayney, Kane, McNally, McVey, McBride, Thompson, Ferguson (sub Henderson 67), Jenkins, Smith (sub Millar 70), Cushley (sub Gawley 62), Tipton. Subs (not used): Hanley, Graham.

Referee: Evan Boyce (Ballygowan)