2 - 1
2 - 1
League (NIFL Premiership)
Michael McLellan (52)
Alan Teggart (pen.) (87)
|Darren Murray (21)|
2. Tony Kane
6. Aaron Stewart
a href="player.php?id=118">Neil McCafferty
Michael McLellan for Alan Davidson (46)
||Ryan McStay for Darren Murray (75)|
Hugh Carvill (Referee)
AN INSPIRED substitute debut appearance by former Portadown striker Michael McLellan turned Tuesday's game on its head and ensured Ballymena United picked up all three points in a thrilling game at the Showgrounds.
If the first half was insipid, the second was anything but with many remarking it was some of the most entertaining football on show at the Warden Street venue in quite some time. In truth, United were lucky to go into the interval with just the one goal deficit, as visitors Portadown were guilty of missing a host of great chances, with ironically goalscorer Darren Murray being the guiltiest culprit.
The opening goal came on 21 minutes; an initial superb save from Dwayne Nelson was struck against the woodwork twice before visiting striker Darren Murray was on hand to tap his side into the lead. This failed to spur United into life, who looked lethargic and sluggish in possession without a recognised striker on the pitch. One marauding run from defender Aaron Stewart who opted to cross rather than shoot was the highlight of a dire first half performance from the home side. Portadown almost doubled their advantage on the stroke of the interval but Kevin Braniff's superb cross was somehow headed over by Darren Murray with the goal gaping.
Whatever manager Glenn Ferguson said to his beleaguered troops at half time must have worked as United took the second half a whole new team. In reality only one personnel switch was made as the disappointing Alan Davidson was withdrawn in favour of new signing and former Portadown striker Michael McLellan. McLellan's impact was instantaneous, rising majestically to head home Alan Teggert corner after just seven minutes on the pitch. An enthusiastic celebration was greeted with delight by the home faithful with Portadown manager Ronnie McFall ruing his decision to release the striker to United just days before the sides were due to clash.
The game then opened up as both sides went in search of a winner. Tony Kane had almost gifted Portadown the win moments earlier with a bizarre own goal only for Dwayne Nelson to come to his rescue and palm the ball to safety. Darren Murray spurned another glorious chance and was promptly withdrawn by manager Ronnie McFall with Ryan McStay taking his place. United had chances of their own, with first Aaron Stewart threatening with another surging run down the left before defender Johnny Taylor almost scored from the resulting corner.
It was all set up for a grandstand finish and that arrived with 87 minutes on the clock. Referee Hugh Carville, who had incensed the home support with some of his decision making throughout the evening, finally redeemed himself by pointing to the spot after Portadown goalkeeper David Miskelly hauled down Michael McLellan. Reliable spot kick taker Alan Teggert stepped up and sent the ball to the right of the outreached Miskelly to send the noisy home support into raptures. A quite incredible shift in impetus had occurred in the second half as United took the game by the scruff of the neck and won a merited three points.
It doesn't get any easier for the Sky Blues as league champions Cliftonville roll into town on Saturday (3pm), however if the commitment, work rate and desire shown in the second half of Tuesday's game is replicated for the entire 90 minutes then United will be in with a shout of picking up a positive result.
Match report written by Jordan Miller
|Dwayne Nelson (GK)||28||5||-||163||-|
|Michael McLellan (sub)||20||1||1||1||1|
* - Table split into two divisions of six.