Cliftonville hit top but suffer Liam Boyce blow
Ballymena United 1 Cliftonville 3: Cliftonville powered back to the top of the Danske Premiership last night after coming from a goal behind to win 3-1 against 10-man Ballymena United at the Showgrounds.
The Reds came into the game buoyed by their 1-0 win over Linfield on Saturday, but went 1-0 down and had to battle back against the Braidmen in driving wind and rain.
The victory – which puts Cliftonville a point clear of Linfield, having played a game more – came at a price as the champions lost Liam Boyce to injury.
The prolific striker will undergo a scan and an x-ray on his damaged ankle today.
Conor Devlin's own goal put the home side ahead but another own goal, this time from Mark Surgenor, levelled matters straight away on the stroke of half-time.
Second half goals from Joe Gormley, from the penalty spot after Johnny Taylor saw red, and Martin Donnelly wrapped up the 3-1 victory.
Ballymena were without suspended midfielders David Cushley and skipper Allan Jenkins.
Boyce landed awkwardly with 10 minutes to go in the first half and, after treatment, was replaced by Diarmuid O'Carroll.
A minute before half-time the home side took the lead. Jim Ervin unleashed a shot from all of 30 yards which Devlin did well to turn around the post.
However, from Tony Kane's resulting corner the former Manchester United youngster made a mess of his attempted punch, helping the ball over the line.
Then the Reds levelled when Donnelly's free-kick from the right was met by the head of Surgenor who found his own net, with United claiming a free-kick.
Five minutes into the second half, the turnaround was complete as Gormley netted his 32nd goal of the season.
Johnny Taylor tangled with the league's top scorer, referee Colin Burns pointing to the spot and producing a red card, which seemed harsh considering the striker was heading away from goal. Gormley made no mistake from the resulting penalty.
Cliftonville killed the game with nine minutes left through the best move of the match.
Substitute Ciaran Caldwell linked up well with George McMullan on the edge of the box before feeding the ball to Donnelly who curled it home.
Ballymena United: Shanahan, Ervin, Munster (Lowry 84mins), Taylor, McBride, Surgenor, Kane, Thompson (McLellan 77mins), A Teggart (McCullagh 52mins), Davidson, Boyce. Subs: G Taggart, Ruddy.
Cliftonville: Devlin, R Scannell, Johnston (Winchester 82 mins), McMullan, Donnelly, Seydak, Smyth, Catney, Curran (Caldwell 77mins), Gormley, Boyce (O'Carroll 35 mins). Subs: Murray, Doherty.
Referee: Colin Burns (Comber).