Glentoran youngster McKee repays boss Patterson's faith
Glentoran 3 Ballymena United 0: Rookie striker Danny McKee marked his Premier League debut with a goal as Glentoran dented Ballymena United's hopes of a top six spot.
The 18-year-old struck on 31 minutes before setting up a second for Fra McCaffrey, who also bagged his first goal for the club since moving from Dundalk in the January transfer window.
Jim O'Hanlon wrapped it up 16 minutes from the end by drilling home a spot kick.
Ballymena travelled to the Oval having lost only one of their last 11 visits, but they never appeared capable of improving on that.
Glentoran manager Eddie Patterson's decision to hand McKee his first start paid off.
The young striker was promoted along with teenager Kym Nelson due to the fact that Jay Magee, Jason Hill and Marcus Kane were injured.
With Johnny Addis and Stephen Gordon both suspended, Patterson decided to leave a posse of his 'big guns' on the subs' bench, with Monday night's Irish Cup quarter final clash with Glenavon in mind.
In contrast, United manager Glenn Ferguson made only one alteration to the side that booked Irish Cup semi final at the weekend win over Dungannon Swifts, with Aaron Stewart taking over from Stephen McBride in defence.
Surprisingly, it was Patterson's boys who almost roared in front after only 13 minutes when David Scullion tested goalkeeper Aaron Shanahan.
Young Nelson was not short in confidence. He tried with luck with an audacious 30 yard drive that flashed yards wide.
The lively Scullion again tested Shanahan, this time cutting in from the left before firing in a shot that the keeper did well to gobble up at the base of the post.
Seconds later United at last tested the makeshift Glens defence – they had Mark Clarke and Willie Garrett in the centre back positions – with Ally Teggart firing over a delicious cross from the left which was met by the head of Darren Boyce but his flick crept inches over the crossbar.
But McKee livened up things with that opener on 31 minutes. He picked up a loose ball, stormed into the United penalty box before walking past the outstretched Shanahan before teasing the ball into the empty net.
McKee then turned provider five minutes after the break. He took off on a surging left wing dash before cutting the ball back to McCaffrey, whose drive ballooned the net, well out of the reach of Shanahan.
The Glens almost grabbed a killer third on 62 minutes with Scullion providing a cross for McCaffery, whose volley was pawed over the top by Shanahan.
But the home supporters were celebrating again 16 minutes from time when defender Johnny Taylor sent Jim O'Hanlon tumbling inside the box.
O'Hanlon was precise from the spot.
Glentoran: Morris, Bradley, Clarke, Garrett (Stewart 75), McAlorum, Nelson, McCaffrey (Hughes 85), O'Hanlon, Scullion, McKee (Allen 80), Henderson. Subs: Hogg, Miskimmin.
Ballymena United: Shanahan, Ervin, Munster (Ruddy 57), Taylor, Stewart, Kane (McLellan 57), Davidson, Jenkins, Cushley, Boyce, Teggart (Thompson 71). Subs: Taggart,Gawley.
Referee: Ian McNabb (Glengormley).