New boy Nathan Hanley inspires Ballymena United to beat Portadown
Portadown 1 Ballymena United 3: This was a tale of two teams that have experienced a total turnaround — Ballymena from inept to winners and the Ports in the opposite direction.
United manager Roy Walker said: “We were terrible against Donegal Celtic last week (beaten 4-0) and we simply had to turn it around. It wasn’t good enough and this was a total transformation.”
Central to that transformation was new signing from Hull City Nathan Hanley, the ex-Linfield apprentice and Carrickfergus-born midfielder.
His brilliant crosses led to Ballymena’s first and third goals and he whipped home the second in a fully-deserved victory for the Braidmen.
Ports boss Ronnie McFall was much troubled as he reflected on a total contrast from Portadown’s superb exploits in the Europa League.
“True, we missed a few chances in the first half,” he reflected. “But the team didn’t have the hunger or desire and that isn’t acceptable.”
Portadown should have gone ahead early on, with three squandered chances, the most glaring from the head of Richard Lecky from all of six yards. And Ballymena took full advantage, going two-up by the break through Mark Surgenor and new man Hanley.
Hanley provided the cross for the first, with Maurice McDowell heading back into the danger area and Surgenor nodding home.
The defence helped Hanley make it two when a poor clearance fell to his left foot, the shot was blocked and it returned to his right and he drilled it low past the despairing David Miskelly.
The Ports pulled one back after the interval when Tim Mouncey headed home a pin-point cross from Ross Redman, but they failed to make any further impact and ex-Ports hero Gary McCutcheon sealed it for Ballymena near the end.