Belfast Telegraph

Loughran header keeps Ballymena United on course

Ballymena United 3 Dungannon Swifts 2

By Stephen Alexander

Caolan Loughran provided a knockout blow his father would have been proud of to keep Ballymena United firmly in the top four of the Danske Bank Premiership.

Loughran, whose dad Eamonn was WBO world welterweight boxing champion in the 1990s, powered home a late header to finally settle a topsy-turvy game in the Sky Blues' favour.

It was a sweet moment for the 22-year-old, who lives less than half a mile from the Showgrounds and who is enjoying a second spell at his hometown club after returning home following a football scholarship in America.

"Tony (Kane) has a great delivery from set pieces so I just gambled and thankfully nobody was really marking me," he said.

"We couldn't get out of first gear in the first half but in the second half we got a wee kick that we needed with a goal at the start of the half.

"These are the matches we have to win and thankfully we got the job done in the end," added Caolan.

Loughran and his central defensive partner Kyle Owens - who had an outstanding game - were both on target for United, whose other goal was a Tony Kane penalty, while Kris Lowe and Andrew Mitchell netted for Swifts.

"Me and Kyle and both young and it's our first year really in the Irish League. We're still learning but we have to cut out the goals we're conceding.

"As a team, we've proved we can score goals every week but keeping them out has been the problem but we're working hard and that and hopefully we'll become a more solid defence," added Loughran.

Swifts boss Rodney McAree remained philosophical about his team's position despite the defeat.

"We did everything in the second half that we shouldn't have done defensively but I can't knock the players for their effort and desire - we just didn't defend well enough and we paid the price for it.

"But we still have a chance of competing for a top six place. It's been a long time since Dungannon Swifts haven't been looking over their shoulder at this stage of the season so we've got to be happy," added McAree.

Ballymena: Glendinning, Ervin, Owens, Loughran, Taggart (Jenkins, 73 mins), Kane, Millar, Faulkner, McKinney, Friel, McMurray. Unused subs: Flynn, McCloskey, McCaffrey, McCracken.

Dungannon: Coleman, Lowe, Hegarty, O'Rourke, Burke (Clucas, 59 mins), Wilson, Harpur, Glackin, McElroy (Teggart, 79 mins), Mitchell (Lavery, 72 mins). Unused subs: Addis, Burns.

Referee: Lee Tavinder (Dungannon)

Man of the match: Kyle Owens

Match rating : 7/10

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