Belfast Telegraph

Sky Blues make light work of struggling Ports

Ballymena Utd 2 Portadown 0

By Stephen Alexander

Holders Ballymena United progressed to the quarter-finals of the Bet McLean League Cup after two second half goals saw off the challenge of Portadown.

The Sky Blues should have gone in front on eight minutes when a free kick was headed on by Johnny Flynn to Kevin Braniff six yards from goal but his volley was superbly turned onto the underside of the crossbar by Chris McGaughey.

Then Fra McCaffrey exchanged passes with Braniff on the edge of the Portadown penalty area but the midfielder's shot was deflected off a defender and behind.

Andrew Burns, a willing runner on Ballymena's right flank, showed nifty footwork to create a shooting chance but his fierce shot was palmed behind by Chris McGaughey.

The young keeper excelled again from the resultant corner, which wasn't properly cleared, and in the ensuing goalmouth scramble Gary Thomspon's shot was beaten out by McGaughey.

Even when Ballymena eventually did get past the Ports keeper, the woodwork came to the rescue as Burns' thunderous shot came back off the post.

Just as Portadown were beginning to enjoy their best period in the game, it was the home side who broke the deadlock on 61 minutes when Burns' measured cross from the right was headed home by Kyle Owens.

United almost doubled their advantage shortly afterwards when Joe McKinney showed good strength to create a shooting chance on the edge of the area but McGaughey was again there to turn the effort behind.

Ballymena ensured their place in the last eight with a slightly freakish second goal six minutes from the end when Braniff's free kick from the left flank drifted over McGaughey's head and into the net.

Leroy Millar almost added a third in stoppage time but his sweetly-struck free kick came back off the crossbar.

Ballymena: Glendinning, Ervin, Owens, Flynn, McCullough, Burns (McCloskey, 85 mins), McCaffrey (Friel, 65 mins), Thompson, Millar, McKinney, Braniff.

Unused subs: Brennan, Kane, Loughran.

Portadown: McGaughey, Brennan, McVey, McCallum, Neill (Holmes, 87 mins), Kilmartin, Wilson (Duffin, 75 mins), Warwick, Hazley, Amuneke (Ferris, 57 mins), Lavery.

Unused subs: Connolly, Upton.

Man of the match: Andrew Burns

Match rating: 6/10

Referee: Lee Tavinder (Dungannon)

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