Cushley cashes in as weak Portadown make it easy
Ballymena United 6 Portadown 1
Ballymena United ended their 10-match winless run in style with a six-goal demolition of Portadown at Warden Street.
David Cushley warmed up a bitterly cold Showgrounds with a first-half hat-trick against a Portadown outfit that will bear little resemblance to the one that runs out against Glentoran in Saturday's Irish Cup semi-final.
Cushley opened the scoring with a lob that deceived teenage keeper Jamie McArdle in the fourth minute but when Gary Twigg pounced to level seven minutes later there was little sign of the demolition to come.
Cushley's second was out of this world, a stunning volley from the angle of the box that deserved a much bigger stage and crowd than this.
His third came four minutes before the break and was a rather more mundane affair, Gary Thompson doing the spade work before allowing his midfield partner to slam home.
The first-half scoring didn't end there though as, just before the interval, Thompson was the provider again, finding Mark Surgenor in the box and he neatly guided the ball past the helpless McArdle.
Ronnie McFall shuffled his pack to try and close the floodgates with Ross Redman and Neil McCafferty introduced for Andrew Burns and Ciaran Rooney but it was to make little difference as Gary Liggett made it 5-1 soon after the restart.
He still had plenty to do when the ball reached him in the area but he fired home through a ruck of players, albeit with the hint of a deflection.
There was no luck with his second and Ballymena's sixth just past the hour when he was released by United's influential skipper, Allan Jenkins.
He still had plenty to do from the left hand side of the box but curled a delightful shot past the despairing McArdle to wrap up the day's scoring.
BALLYMENA UNITED: Nelson, Kane, Munster, A. Stewart, Ruddy (Taylor 65) Surgenor (Davidson 65), Thompson, Jenkins, Cushley (Dolan 78), Liggett, Taggart. Subs not used: Teggart, Lowry.
PORTADOWN: McArdle, Andrew Burns (Redman 45) Breen, Aaron Burns, McNeill, Mackle, Rooney (McCafferty 45), Patton, R Burns (S. Stewart 59), Twigg, Lecky. Subs not used: Murray, Braniff.
Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge)