BALLYMENA UNITED 4 CLIFTONVILLE 1
Ballymena United’s Jonathan McMurray grabbed a double as the Sky Blues got back on track with a 4-1 win against Cliftonville at the Showgrounds.
Kyle Owens and Cathair Freil got the other two as United got their hands on the three points and the result means Cliftonville have failed to win away from home this year.
United will now head into Saturday’s clash with Crusaders buoyed after last night’s result.
Cliftonville will now look to recover as they face Glenavon at the weekend.
In a lively opening ten minutes both sides got stuck in with Ballymena skipper Jim Ervin picking up a yellow card in the eighth minute after tangling with Stephen Garrett.
The Reds Kym Nelson should have followed Ervin in to the referees notebook but the midfielder was let off by ref Ian McNabb.
Levi Ives - who scored twice on Saturday against Crusaders at the weekend - nearly opened his side’s account in the 15th minute.
The defenders shot looked good until it hit the United side netting.
United defender Adam McCracken then had a very lucky escape in the 27th minute as he volleyed Nelson’s cross off his own post with keeper Ross Glendinning looking on.
In the 33rd minute United’s Fra MCaffrey had a shot that flew off target after good work by Friel.
The Reds had the ball in the United net three minutes before the break. Garrett ruled off-side after Glendinning had spilled a Chris Curran shot.
United started quickly in the second half with McMurray firing over in the 47th minute after Conor McCloskey’s shot had been blocked.
United had further chances through Allan Jenkins and McMurray but they couldn’t find the opener.
United got ahead in the 55th minute. A free-kick from McCloskey found Kyle Owens at the back post and his towering header flew into the Cliftonville goal.
It was the defenders sixth goal of the season.
The Sky Blues were starting to move the ball about better and they went 2-0 up in the 60th minute.
McCloskey raced forward before releashing McMurray who smashed the ball past Paul Burke in the Reds goal.
United’s two goal lead lasted two minutes as Garrett pounced to make it 2-1. The Reds striker finishing in style as the United defence looked on.
The visitors were nearly level in the 66th minute. United keeper Glendinning spilled a Reds free-kick but Jay Donnelly’s follow up hit the bar with the United keeper stranded.
In the 73rd minute Tomas Cosgrove tried his luck from range for the Reds but Glendinning made a good save.
It was 3-1 to United in the 83rd as Friel finished off a great move from Jenkins and McMurray. It was a fine finish from the striker who was scoring his 20th goal of the season.
The Reds Nelson was then lucky just to see yellow after a reckless challenge on Caolan Loughran.
It was 4-1 in the 88th minute as McMurray hit his second of the night. The striker lobbing the advancing Burke. It was a quality finish from the front man and United were home and dry.
Ballymena United: Glendinning, Owens, Flynn, Jenkins, McCloskey, Friel, Ervin, McMurray (Henderson 90mins, McCaffrey, Loughran, McCracken (Millar, 76mins).
Subs not used: Allen,Lowry,Kerr.
Cliftonville: Burke, McGovern, Ives, Bonner (Reynolds, 85mins), Curran, Garrett, M Donnelly, J Donnelly (Lavery, 76mins), Cosgrove, Finnegan (Haire 67mins), Nelson.
Subs not used: Dunne, Winchester, Reynolds.
Referee: I McNabb