Cathair Friel on target as holders Ballymena United march on
Ballymena United 3-0 H&W Welders
Ballymena United comfortably overcame the opening hurdle in their defence of the Toals County Antrim Shield as they cruised past the challenge of Harland & Wolff Welders at the Showgrounds.
The Championship side came close to opening the scoring on 23 minutes when Scott McMillan’s powerful header from Scott Davidson’s corner beat Alan Blayney but full-back Danny Wallace was well positioned to head clear on the goal-line.
The home side took the lead on 26 minutes when Johnny McMurray’s through ball sent strike partner Cathair Friel scampering clear down the channel only for the former Limavady man to be upended by keeper Johnston at the corner of the penalty area.
Referee Steven Gregg awarded the penalty and Tony Kane tucked the ball into the keeper’s bottom left-hand corner — the midfielder’s fifth successful conversion from the spot this season.
The Premiership side doubled their advantage on 61 minutes when Johnston made a superb reflex save from substitute Allan Jenkins’ header from a Kane corner but Johnny McMurray was on hand to force the ball home from close range.
United were gifted a third goal on 72 minutes when Gary Spence’s attempted back-pass fell hopelessly short of its target and Friel gratefully accepted the chance to steer a shot past the exposed Johnston for his seventh goal of the season.
Ballymena United: Blayney, Ervin, Owens, Loughran, Wallace, T Kane (sub E Kane 77), Thompson, Faulkner, Millar (sub Jenkins 60), Friel (sub McCaffrey 80), McMurray.
Subs (not used): Glendinning, Flynn.
H&W Welders: Johnston, Dickson, Armstrong, Spence, McMurray, McMillan, K Devine (sub S Devine 81), Davidson (sub Deans 81), Harris, McKee, Bowers.
Subs (not used): Middleton, McConnell, Nixon.
Referee: Steven Gregg (Ballyclare).
Man of the match: Johnny McMurray (Ballymena United)
Match rating: 7/10