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Paul McElroy’s bit of magic downs Larne and keeps Ballymena moving in right direction

Ballymena United 2 Larne 1

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Easy slider: Ballymena United’s Paul McElroy celebrates after he scores to make it 2-1 against Larne. Credit: INPHO/Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

Easy slider: Ballymena United’s Paul McElroy celebrates after he scores to make it 2-1 against Larne. Credit: INPHO/Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

©INPHO/Presseye/Stephen Hamilt

Easy slider: Ballymena United’s Paul McElroy celebrates after he scores to make it 2-1 against Larne. Credit: INPHO/Presseye/Stephen Hamilton

Ballymena United’s impressive home form continued as they came from behind to deservedly beat Larne 2-1.

Larne were back at the Showgrounds for the third time in 52 days, but it was a very different story from their first two visits which ended in resounding victories for the Invermen.

They took the lead through Davy McDaid just after the break, but the Braidmen turned it around with goals from Conor Keeley and Paul McElroy to add to recent home victories over Cliftonville, Linfield and Crusaders and move into seventh place in the Danske Bank Premiership.

To say that the opening period of the first half was a dull affair would be an understatement.

On a freezing cold night at the Showgrounds there was nothing to warm fans of either side until the first opportunity arrived with half an hour gone.

It came the way of the home side as Stephen McCullough found time and space, but his fierce left-footed effort was turned away by Rohan Ferguson, back in Larne’s league line-up after two games on the bench.

With 38 minutes gone, Larne saw a penalty appeal turned away when Ben Doherty cut across the box and saw his shot blocked, but his claim for a handball was dismissed by referee Tony Clarke.

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It began to liven up in the closing stages of the half and Larne went close five minutes before the break.

Doherty was once again at the heart of it, this time floating in from the left before unleashing a shot which Jordan Williamson did well to turn away.

The best chance of the half, however, arrived a minute later, coming the way of the home side.

McElroy made a run down the left before crossing to the back post to strike partner Ryan Waide, but he nodded it over the crossbar when well placed.

The deadlock was broken with 51 minutes on the clock.

After a patient passage of play from the visitors, a clever ball from Mark Randall sent Tomas Cosgrove away on the right flank. The full-back pulled the ball back for McDaid, who arrived late into the box to curl past Williamson.

The lead, however, lasted just seven minutes.

Jude Winchester let fly with a speculative effort from 25 yards, which Larne goalkeeper Ferguson attempted to catch but scooped over the crossbar.

From the resulting Ross Redman corner, Ferguson came for the cross but was beaten to the ball by Keeley, who headed home inside the six-yard box to level.

With 20 minutes left to play, and the home side starting to get on top, Larne boss Tiernan Lynch made a triple substitution with Dean Jarvis, Thomas Oluwa and Lee Lynch entering the fray.

However, it was Ballymena who got their noses in front with 15 minutes left.

A long ball up the pitch from goalkeeper Williamson was knocked on by Kenny Kane into the path of McElroy.

The striker picked up the ball on the right-hand side of the box with a lot of work still to do, but managed to use Randall as a shield and curled a fantastic effort beyond Ferguson.

United boss David Jeffrey then unleashed summer signing David Parkhouse for his first home appearance for the club since picking up a nasty injury on the opening day of the season.

The former Derry City striker very nearly added the icing on the cake with a minute left to play, but he headed against the bar from Brendan Barr’s cross.

Ballymena United: Williamson, Chapman, McCullough, Redman, Keeley, Barr, Winchester, Millar, McElroy (Parkhouse 81), Kane, Waide.

Unused subs: Johnston, Henderson, Brammall, Loughran, Graham, Smith

Larne: Ferguson, Balmer, Kelly (Jarvis 70), Watson (Lusty 90), Sule, Randall, Hale (Oluwa 70), McDaid, Doherty (Lynch 70), Bolger, Cosgrove

Unused subs: Argyrides, Scott, Lynch, Mitchell

Referee: Tony ClarkeReferee: Tony Clarke (Belfast)

Man of the match: Jude Winchester

Match rating: 6/10


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