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Ballymena on the up thanks to Hanley goal


Up close: Ballymena’s David Cushley battles Adam Salley

Up close: Ballymena’s David Cushley battles Adam Salley

©William Cherry / Presseye

Up close: Ballymena’s David Cushley battles Adam Salley

Ballymena midfielder Nathan Hanley ensured there was no hangover from his side's recent County Antrim Shield success with the only goal against Carrick Rangers.

The win pushed United up to seventh place, above Portadown, and there was double reason to celebrate after Tony Kane signed a two-year extension to his contract.

Carrick remain second bottom although they do have two games in hand on the team above them, Ballinamallard, who are just one point ahead.

The match was a scrappy affair with the Sky Blues dominating possession against a well-drilled but largely uncreative Carrick side.

Visiting manager Gary Haveron played centre-back Daniel Kelly in midfield to allow for Gareth McKeown's introduction in his first game since his transfer from Glenavon, but the plan backfired badly as the home side controlled the game from the off.

The goal came with just two minutes on the clock when McKeown missed a defensive header, allowing Hanley to prod the ball past visiting keeper Brian Neeson.

The home side's tails were up following that early goal and they almost doubled their lead on 24 minutes when Tony Kane whipped in a free-kick from the left of the box but Neeson was down smartly to save.

Then, just before the interval, Carrick top scorer Miguel Chines latched on to a loose ball but his toe-poked effort rolled inches wide of Alan Blayney's right upright.

Ballymena dominated possession after the interval but they just couldn't get that killer second goal with Cushley missing a gilt-edged chance on 83 minutes.

However, the one goal was enough for Glenn Ferguson's men to take all three points.

Ballymena UNITED: Blayney, Kane, Ervin, McNally, McBride, Faulkner, Taggart (Ferguson 53), Thompson, Cushley (Taylor 89), Jenkins, Hanley (Smith 64).

Carrick RANGERS: Neeson, Traynor, McKeown, Surgenor, Kelly (McCloskey 56), Harmon, Salley (Wright 79), McCaul, Cherry, Roy, Chines.

Referee: Raymond Crangle (Belfast).

Belfast Telegraph