Battling Ballymena grind down Glentoran
Glentoran 0 Linfield 1: Ballymena United inflicted another bloody nose on Carling Premiership leaders Glentoran last night as their 10 men stunned the Oval with a memorable 2-1 victory.
Just like last season when they left east Belfast with a win by the same scoreline, the Sky Blues brought to an end the Glens unbeaten start to the campaign thanks to goals by Eamonn Murray and Richard Gibson, either side of Rory Carson receiving his marching orders for a second bookable offence.
As starts go, Glentoran couldn't have asked for a worse one.
After seven minutes Andy Waterworth twisted his knee and would last a further 12 minutes before having to come off and was replaced by Peter Steele.
Before that, the Glens lost Jimmy Callacher — the victim of a strong challenge by Albert Watson, who did get the ball but followed through, catching the young midfielder who had to be stretchered off. Watson was perhaps unfairly cautioned for the tackle.
Then, to literally add insult to injury, on 14 minutes the visitors took the lead when Murray's speculative drive from 25 yards caught out Elliott Morris and the ball nestled in the back of the net.
It was clear that the Braidmen had arrived with a plan — and physicality was at the heart of that.
Indeed it was almost a throwback to the Crusaders team that Braid boss Roy Walker played in — a decent amount of quality but with brute force at its core.
Neal Gawley was the next to go tumbling under a robust tackle as he came out worse in a clash with Carson who was also cautioned.
A red card was never too far away from this game but surprisingly the first was shown to Walker who spent the second half in the stands one comment too many to referee David Malcolm.
In the second half Glentoran's search for a comeback, was aided by that red card for Carson and the youngster could have no complaints as he went in hard and late on Johnny Black on 52 minutes to receive his second yellow card.
Then on 58 minutes after Aaron Stewart had blocked a goalbound Ciaran Martyn effort a melee ensued in the middle of the park with Daryl Fordyce and Denver Gage at loggerheads yet strangely Gavin Taggart was the only man booked.
Then, the biggest shock of the night, as the ten men doubled their advantage. The Glentoran defence failed to deal with Nathan Hanley's free-kick on the hour, allowing Gibson to nip in and score from a couple of yards out.
With 10 minutes left the Glens were gifted a lifeline when Grant Gardiner's shot from 22 yards was fumbled into the net by Nelson.
Nixon, sent up front, volleyed over when well placed with three minutes remaining.
GLENTORAN: Morris, McGovern, Nixon, Ward, Black, Clarke (Burrows 62), Martyn, Callacher (Gardiner 12), Waterworth (Steele 19), Fordyce, Gawley: Subs: Leeman, Hill
BALLYMENA UNITED: Nelson, Smith, Watson, Gage, Stewart, Murray (Haveron 75), Carson, Taggart, Hanley, McCutcheon, Gibson (Surgenor 62). Not used: Colligan, McDowell, Young.
Referee: David Malcolm (Bangor)