Belfast Telegraph

Why Ryan Harpur is like Paul Scholes for Ballymena, explains David Jeffrey

Ballymena United 3 Dungannon Swifts 2

Ryan Harpur (left) in action for Ballymena
Ryan Harpur (left) in action for Ballymena
Billy Weir

By Billy Weir

Two midfielders at different stages of their career showed the quality that exists in the Danske Bank Premiership with superb goals in a roller-coaster of a game at a bitterly cold Warden Street.

But the displays of Ryan Harpur - who opened the scoring for Ballymena United against his former side Dungannon Swifts - and the two classy strikes of Oisin Smyth for the visitors warmed the cockles of those watching.

Harpur ghosted in to give the Sky Blues the lead, heading home Andy McGrory's back post cross, and earned high praise from a delighted and relieved David Jeffrey.

"It's an incredible run, he's so intelligent, he drifts into the box. Paul Scholes used to do that and Ryan probably has as much pace as Paul Scholes!", he said.

"He was making a run to the front post and then he just peeled off, it was a great ball and a fantastic header."

Smyth responded in the 24th minute and, just past the hour, scored a wonderful second to give the Swifts the lead.

They failed to hold onto it, though; James Knowles putting the final touch to a fabulous flowing move 60 seconds later and, when Harpur was bundled over in the box by Niall Morgan in the 71st minute, McGrory, who turned 28 yesterday, celebrated with the winning goal from the penalty spot.

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It was tough on the Swifts, but manager Kris Lindsay was happy that his side are looking a little more like themselves again.

"When you're on that run and you're losing week-in, week-out, it's difficult," he said.

"That win last week gave us a little lift but unfortunately we didn't back it up but I can't have any complaints with our performance levels.

"Ballymena are a good side, they've got their big players back, Lecky and Friel are a handful up front, Knowles is back in midfield, they're getting their better players back on the pitch. They finished nearly top of the league last year and we've competed and probably deserved something from the game.

"A draw would probably have been a fair result but you don't always get what you deserve every week, we've got to take it on the chin and move on because we have another massive one against Institute next week."

And with the likes of Smyth, the excellent Ben Gallagher and 16-year-old Terry Devlin coming on as sub, there are reasons for optimism for Lindsay.

"Oisin took his two goals very well, the second was a smashing finish. Sometimes you forget how young Oisin is, he's only 18 and still learning," he said.

"He probably broke into the team around this time last year so he's still learning and, going forward, maybe a bit more defensive work could be done with him, but he's only 18 and we're not going to slaughter him about that because he has a big future."

Ballymena: Williamson, Ervin, McCullough, Addis, Balmer, T Kane, McGrory, Harpur (Kelly, 74 mins), Friel, Knowles (Reece Glendinning, 82 mins), Lecky. Unused subs: Ross Glendinning, McGinty, K Kane, Lavery, Burns.

Dungannon: Morgan, Teggart, Redman (Taylor, 81 mins), Wilson, Byers, Fitzpatrick (Devlin, 73 mins), Lowe, Patton (Waide, 84 mins), Carvill, Smyth, Gallagher. Unused subs: Byrne, King, McGuinness, Coyle.

Referee: Ian McNabb (Newtownabbey)

Man of the match: Andy McGrory

Match rating: 8/10

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