Belfast Telegraph

McMurray late show delights boss Jeffrey

Ballymena Utd 2-1 Glenavon

High point: Andy McGrory savours his opening goal last night
High point: Andy McGrory savours his opening goal last night

By Stephen Alexander

Johnny McMurray headed a last-gasp winner as Ballymena United brought Glenavon's long unbeaten run to a halt.

The striker, whose season has been interrupted by injury, struck in the final minute to inflict the league leaders' first Premiership defeat since the opening day of the season.

It looked as though the pacesetters might stretch that unbeaten streak after Mark Sykes cancelled out Andy McGrory's early opener against his former side until McMurray beat Jonathan Tuffey with a deft glancing header.

"It's a marvellous, marvellous way to win a game of football," beamed United boss David Jeffrey.

"The lesson from all of that is that it's not about the 11 players who start - it's about the squad.

"The lads who started really fought their guts out in horrendous weather conditions.

"We brought Anthony Kane on and he put a superb ball into the box and Jonathan just had to get his head on it and steer it wide of Jonathan Tuffey."

His Glenavon counterpart Gary Hamilton was left to rue his side's start, stressing: "Our first-half performance probably lost us the game although I think our second-half performance was good enough to earn something out of it."

The visitors came close on seven minutes when Josh Daniels' cross from the left was met by the in-rushing Andy Hall but Ross Glendinning was alert to make an instinctive low block with his right hand.

It proved a crucial miss as less than 60 seconds later, Glenavon were behind.

Cathair Friel stood up a cross to the back post where Willie Faulkner couldn't make a proper connection but the ball ricocheted fortuitously to McGrory, who had time to take a touch before forcing the ball home from 10 yards.

It was almost 2-0 on 21 minutes when a Leroy Millar through ball was flicked on by Adam Lecky to Faulkner, who lifted the ball over Caolan Marron.

As he bore down on goal, the Glenavon defender got back to divert the ball behind.

The visitors made a much better start to the second period but it was Ballymena who came close to doubling their advantage 10 minutes after the restart.

A poor clearance from Tuffey was returned by Faulkner into the path of Friel who crossed for his strike partner Lecky, only for a timely intervention by Dylan King to thwart the big striker.

With Ballymena looking dangerous on the counter-attack, Millar threaded a through ball into the path of the clear-breaking Friel but the striker's rising shot was well held by Tuffey.

Glenavon responded when a Sykes cross from the right was allowed to bounce inside the penalty area with Stephen Murray swivelling to fire a half-volley over.

Glenavon eventually turned their pressure into an equaliser on 73 minutes.

It came with the Sky Blues temporarily down to 10 men after Faulkner had been carried off with an injury and the visitors took full advantage with Rhys Marshall laying the ball into the path of Sykes to guide a shot into the far corner.

Ballymena threw on McMurray in the closing stages and there was late drama as sub Tony Kane clipped in a cross and McMurray's glancing header crept in at the far post with Tuffey unable to get a strong enough hand to keep the ball out.

Belfast Telegraph


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