Belfast Telegraph

Ballymena United turn it around to join top table

By Billy Weir

Ballymena United 2 Portadown 1: For the vast majority of this game there only looked like one team capable of joining Cliftonville at the top of the table and they weren't in sky blue.

Whatever Glenn Ferguson said at the interval though must have been worth hearing but it was the stuff of nightmares for Portadown as two players Ronnie McFall allowed to leave Shamrock Park turned the game on its head and sent Sky Blues joint top with Glentoran.

It was all going according to plan for the Ports when their early dominance was rewarded in the 21st minute with the visitors gaining their reward for fluent football and perseverance in equal measure.

Kevin Braniff, who had earlier hit a post, surged down the left wing and hammered in a cross that Gary Twigg couldn't have met any sweeter. Nelson did superbly to keep it out and looked to have saved when Twigg hit the rebound off the woodwork but Murray was on hand to make it third time lucky.

The one-way traffic continued unabated, Chris Casement, whose free-kick started the Ports' revival against Cliftonville last Friday night, almost repeated the trick with a vicious dipping effort that sailed just wide of the target, while Johnny Black and Neil McCafferty also came close.

Five minutes before the interval they should have doubled their lead, Braniff involved yet again when he fired across a pinpoint centre that picked out Murray but he couldn't direct his effort on target. The home side finally had an effort on goal two minutes after the break, only it was on the wrong goal, when the ball broke in the area and Nelson had to get down sharply to push his own defender Tony Kane's attempted clearance behind for a corner.

It was just the lucky break they needed as five minutes later Glenn Ferguson's decision to throw new signing, McLellan, snapped up from the Ports on Saturday, into the action after the break paid immediate dividends.

His quick thinking from a free-kick allowed Gary Thompson to run in on goal only for his effort to be bundled behind by Casement but from Teggart's corner the big striker rose to head home.

United, who were infinitely better in the second period, almost snatched it when Johnny Taylor slid in at the back post only to see his shot saved by David Miskelly and moments later the keeper had to be sharp again to deny Aaron Stewart.

But there was no denying the Sky Blues, Johnny Taylor broke up an attack and played a beautiful ball over the top that set McLellan free and when he nipped in in front of Miskelly, the keeper bundled him over.

Teggart was coolness personified as he stepped up three minutes from time and hammered the ball into the net.

BALLYMENA UNITED: Nelson, Kane, Stewart, Davidson (McClellan 45), Taylor, McCullagh, Ruddy, Thompson, Gawley, Jenkins, Teggart. Subs not used: Taggart, Liggett, Munster, Duffin.

PORTADOWN: Miskelly, Casement, Black, Friars, Breen, Ramsey, McMahon, McCafferty, Murray (McStay 75), Twigg, Braniff. Subs not used: Brennan, Rooney, Mouncey, McConnell.

Referee: Hugh Carvill (Belfast).

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