Belfast Telegraph

Cliftonville's time for lift-off: Breslin

By Conor McLaughlin

Cliftonville 2 Ballymena United 1: Their performance was never going to be of utmost importance, which is why Tommy Breslin was happy to accentuate the positives of Cliftonville's narrow victory over Ballymena United.

Strikes from Stephen Garrett and Liam Boyce helped edge out the Sky Blues, who arguably deserved more than the futile goal of the match accolade secured by David Cushley's eye-catching equaliser on the stroke of half-time.

After reclaiming the advantage early in the second period, the Reds survived more than a few late scares to hang on for their first Premiership success in a month and a platform from which Breslin hopes they can now build.

"After the last few weeks, I suppose it was inevitable that we would have to win ugly to bring our run to an end," said Breslin.

"We're happy to take that because you'll take any sort of win just so that you have something to build on.

"That will have done wonders for confidence levels and for easing anxiety and nerves, but what we need to do now is try to make it two wins in a row, then take on the next challenge and the next one as they come along.

"Things weren't entirely perfect from our point of view, but we had some very good performers out there and at times looked a wee bit like our old selves. There were certain passages of play that were much better than we've been producing of late but, to be honest, sometimes it's not the performance that matters, it was important to just grind out a win.

"Ballymena came here and played very well, they created a lot of chances but I just felt that a lot of the things that had gone against us in the last few weeks went for us here."

Garrett was the contest's stand-out performer and, after opening the scoring with a smart touch and finish on 15 minutes, he teed Boyce up for the champions' winner in the aftermath of Cushley's delightful strike – an angled drive which rocketed across the surface en-route to nestling just inside the post.

Ballymena boss Glenn Ferguson will still be wondering how his side failed to add to their tally and, having seen Cushley, Allan Jenkins, Gary Thompson and Mark Surgenor go close, he was further frustrated when skipper Jenkins passed up the opportunity of a perfect hat-trick late on – shooting wide with his left foot and drawing a save from Conor Devlin with his right before heading off target deep in injury-time.

"The difference was putting the ball in the back of the net," reflected Ferguson.

"Our goalkeeper hasn't really had much to do apart from the goals, whereas we've created a lot of chances and not been able to put any of them away.

"It's hard to take because I believe we deserved something from the game, we should have won it in fact. We know the league table doesn't lie and we're right down near the bottom at the minute but Cliftonville, who are the champions and much further up, didn't look any better than us.

"I'm pleased with how we played and the amount of chances we worked but I don't know how we've come away beaten."

CLIFTONVILLE: Devlin, McGovern, R Scannell, Johnston, McNally, McMullan, Garrett, Donnelly, Catney, Gormley, Boyce. Subs: C Scannell, O'Carroll (for Gormley, 74 mins), Seydak (for R Scannell, 74 mins), Murray, Doherty (for Donnelly, 90 mins).

BALLYMENA: Addis, Kane, Munster, Taylor, Ruddy, Thompson, Taggart, Surgenor, Teggart, Jenkins, Cushley. Subs: Stewart, Liggett (for Thompson, 89 mins), Dolan (for Munster, 88 mins), McCullagh, McLellan (for Teggart, 69 mins).

Referee: Raymond Hetherington (Dungannon)

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