United claim first league victory with win at Oval

Matthew Shevlin is mobbed by his Ballymena United team-mates after scoring his side's equaliser in today's game against Glentoran at the Oval. Picture: Press Eye.
Matthew Shevlin is mobbed by his Ballymena United team-mates after scoring his side's equaliser in today's game against Glentoran at the Oval. Picture: Press Eye.

Ballymena United claimed their first victory of the Danske Banke Premiership campaign with a deserved 3-1 success over Glentoran at the Oval.

Glenn Ferguson’s side recovered from the early setback of Curtis Allen’s seventh minute opener for Glentoran to storm to victory thanks to goals from Matthew Shevlin, Matthew Tipton and Willie Faulkner.

Despite the win, Ballymena still remain on the bottom of the table after Warrenpoint Town’s win against Carrick Rangers, but Ballymena have closed the gap on a number of the teams above them as they aim to recover from their dreadful start to the campaign.

There was a whirlwind opening to the game with two goals in a minute inside the opening 10 minutes.

Following a half-cleared Glentoran corner, the ball was crossed back in by Stephen McAlorum and when it was headed towards the back post, Connor McMenamin bundled the ball against the post and it broke to give Curtis Allen the easiest of tap-ins from three yards.

But within a minute Ballymena were level as Jim Ervin released Matthew Shevlin through the middle and the 16-year-old striker showed a cool head to skip around Glentoran keeper Aaron Hogg and slot home.

Ballymena looked a threat on the counter-attack and Eoin Kane produced a surging run from midfield before laying the ball off to Matthew Tipton, whose first time shot went wide of Hogg’s near post.

Then Willie Faulkner missed a gilt-edged opportunity to put United ahead on 33 minutes. David Cushley sent Shevlin racing through the middle and when the young striker was held up by two defenders, he laid the ball into the path of the in-rushing Faulkner but the winger dallied too long and allowed Hogg to come off his line to smother the danger.

But Ballymena’s first half endeavours did finally produce their reward six minutes before the interval as they went in front.

The goal owed much to the dogged determination of skipper Jim Ervin, who initially lost possession inside his own half but pursued his opponent and harried him into a mistake.

Ervin then seized possession and burst into an attacking area before off-loading a pass to Matthew Tipton who steadied himself before producing a crisp, low finish across Hogg and into the bottom corner.

Ballymena had another chance to stretch their lead 10 minutes into the second half when the ball broke to Shevlin inside the penalty area. As the ball cannoned off keeper Hogg, it fell to Shevlin again but the young striker couldn’t turn the loose ball home from a difficult angle.

Then Shevlin intelligently set up the in-rushing Willie Faulkner who screwed his shot wide of the target when well placed.

David Scullion forced a low save from Dwayne Nelson in a rare Glentoran attack, while at the other end, Ballymena spurned a glorious opening to put daylight between the sides.

Matthew Tipton robbed Glens defender Jonny Addis on the edge of his own penalty area but with striker partner Matthew Shevlin screaming for a square pass, Tipton tried - unsuccessfully - to chip Hogg but the keeper gathered easily.

All Ballymena’s good work could have been undone with 15 minutes left when Barry Holland went down under a challenge from Johnny Taylor inside the penalty area but referee Raymond Hetherington remained unmoved.

Ballymena’s second half dominance eventually came to fruition on 78 minutes.

Trickery from Matthew Tipton on the touchline saw him touch the ball inside to Willie Faulkner, who had come in from the wing, before dinking the ball over Hogg.

Trickery from Matthew Tipton on the touchline sees him touch the ball inside to Willie Faulkner, who had come in from the wing, before dinking the ball over Hogg for his first goal for the club.

Glentoran: Hogg, M. Kane, Holland, Birney, Howland, Allen (sub Scullion 51), McCaffrey (sub Gordon 84), McAlorum (sub Nelson 84), Addis, Caldwell, McMenamin. Subs (not used): Garrett, McCullough.

Ballymena United: Nelson, Ervin, Ruddy, Taylor, Rodger (sub Thompson 73), Faulkner, E. Kane, Jenkins (sub Ferguson 83), Cushley (sub Millar 90), Tipton, Shevlin. Subs (not used): Henderson, Hanley.

Referee: Raymond Hetherington (Dungannon).