Irish Cup: Ballymena United too strong for Portadown

Ballymena United skipper Jim Ervin celebrates with team-mate Tony Kane, after scoring against Portadown.
Ballymena United skipper Jim Ervin celebrates with team-mate Tony Kane, after scoring against Portadown.

Ballymena United eased into an Irish Cup quarter final meeting with Crusaders thanks to a convincing 4-1 win over Portadown.

They were forced to fight back from an early set back though as Adam Salley fired the visitors in fronton ten minutes.

After that the hosts took control and saw off their Championship opponents thanks to goals from Cathair Friel, Adam Lecky (2) and remarkably Jim Ervin.

Ballymena started on the front foot with Leroy Millar testing Tuda Murphy insdie the first 50 seconds.

Portadown eventually settled and won a dangerous free kick on six minutes after Johnny Addis tangled with Chris Lavery, earning the defender a booking.

Liam McKenna swung the ball into the box and Ross Glendinning did well to punch clear under pressure.

From another free kick four minutes later the visitors broke the deadlock. Greg Hall fed the ball into Adam Salley's feet, and he turned to curl a delightful effort into the top corner giving Glendinning no chance.

Cathair Friel should have done better when played in by Andy McGrory on 14 minutes. Murphy looked to be caught in no man's land, but the striker shot straight at him.

Friel made amends two minutes later as the Sky Blues were awarded a penalty after Kevin Braniff brought down Addis.

Up stepped the front man to convert his 17th of the season.

Friel turned provider on 22 minutes as he whipped a great ball into the near post for Adam Lecky to glance past Murphy.

Aaron Duke spurned a great opportunity as a long ball sent him clear on 26 minutes, but the ball got away from him and Glendinning blocked.

The Ports had a let off two minutes after the restart when Murphy spilled a Lecky cross, the ball squirmed out to Kane on the edge of the box, but his first time effort was off target.

The visitors were still proving to be a threat on the break. On 50 minutes Braniff sent Lavery away, but his shot was parried by Glendinning.

Veteran stopper Murphy produced a superb save to palm away Millar’s flicked header on 62 minutes.

The Ports won a series of corners on 69 minutes, but the Ballymena defence just about held out.

There was a change in the middle with 20 minutes to go as referee Ross Dunlop was forced to leave the action to be replaced by the fourth official Mark Dillon.

The home side all but wrapped the tie up with 15 minutes to go as Lecky grabbed his second of the game.

Murphy could only parry Millar’s low drive and the big front man reacted quickest to fire home the loose ball.

United rubbed more salt into the wounds four minutes later with a goal from a very unlikely source.

Skipper Jim Ervin somehow found himself on the edge of the Ports box and produced an excellent finish from Millar’s pass to make it 4-1.

To their credit Portadown kept going and almostpulled another goal back in the closing stages, but Glendinning blocked well from Salley.

Ballymena United: Glendinning, Kane, Addis, Friel (Shevlin 83), Knowles, McCullough, McGrory, Balmer (Whiteside 81), Ervin, Lecky, Millar (McGinty 80).

Portadown: Murphy, McCallum, Larkin, Lavery, Salley, Braniff (Bradley 81), Duke (Carmichael 73), Hall, Thompson, Wilson, McKenna (Mackle 62).

Referee: Ross Dunlop