Ballymena United see off Cliftonville at the Showgrounds

United's Cathair Friel and Steven McCullough celebrate after taking the lead
United's Cathair Friel and Steven McCullough celebrate after taking the lead

Ballymena United 2 Cliftonville 1

Ballymena United kept the pressure on league leaders Linfield with a 2-1 win against Cliftonville in the Danske Bank Premiership.

Goals from Cathair Friel and Leroy Millar sealed the three points for the Sky Blues while Rory Donnelly got the Reds only reply.

United will be pleased to have got the win as they had to dig-in near end as the Reds pushed forward looking for the equaliser in the closing minutes.

The game started at a great pace with both sides looking to get forward in the early exchanges and it seemed as if a good game was on the cards.

In the 13th minute Cliftonville's Garry Breen was booked for a reckless challenge on Jude Winchester.

United had a chance in the 14th minute from a free-kick. Millar flicked it on and it hit the bar from a touch by keeper Richard Brush beaten and the ball was cleared by the Reds defence.

In the 19th minute the visitors had a chance from a corner. Striker Joe Gormley headed for goal but he missed the target.

It was 1-0 to United in the 20th minute as Friel struck after a free-kick had been knocked into his path. It was a great finish from Friel as he grabbed his 18th of the season.

A minute later it could have been 2-0. Adam Lecky and Friel combined to set-up Winchester but he shot wide when well placed.

The Sky Blues had another chance in the 25th minute. Friel put in Andy McGrory but instead of pulling the trigger he tried to return the ball to Lecky and the chance was lost.

Two minutes later Tony Kane tried his luck from outside the box. He made a sweet connection before his effort flew inches over with Brush stranded.

Then in the 32nd minute United were in again. McGrory trying his luck at the back post but his effort was off target.

The Reds had the ball in the net in the 38th minute through Conor McMenamin. However the linesman flag was up for offside.

The Reds came out with more purpose after the break as they looked to get back on level terms with United.

The game went end to end for the next 15 minutes with both sides producing anything of note.

In the 69th minute United broke again. Friel fed Winchester but he dragged his effort wide when well placed.

It was 2-0 to United on 71st minute as Leroy Millar finished off a move with a beautiful lob that gave keeper Brush no chance.

Cliftonville came straight back with a couple of corners a minute later. And from the second corner they scored a goal as Rory Donnelly headed home past Ross Glendinning to make it 2-1 and it was game on.

Winchester then had a great chance with nine minutes to go but Brush pushed it away at the last minute.

This was edge of the seat stuff for the United faithful as they were under mounting pressure from a revitalised Cliftonville side.

But they held on to claim a vital three league points.

Ballymena United: Glendinning, Kane, Addis, Whiteside, Friel, McCullough, McGrory, Winchester, Ervin, Lecky, Millar.

Subs not used: Williamson, Quigley, McGinty, Faulkner, Shevlin, Balmer, McMurray.

Cliftonville: Brush, Breen, Grace, C Curran, R Curran, Harkin (Garrett 78mins), Bagnall, McConnell (R Donelly 57 mins), Gormley, McMenamin, Gorman.

Subs not used: Neeson, McGovern, Ives, Catney, A Donnelly.

Referee: T Clarke