Belfast Telegraph

How Ballymena's vital victory over Cliftonville affects the race for the top six

Cliftonville 1-2 Ballymena United

By Gareth Hanna

Ballymena United ended their run of six defeats in seven games with an all-important win at Solitude on Tuesday evening.

Jonathan McMurray and Johnny Flynn struck to seal a 2-1 success and keep United's hopes of a top six finish alive.

So just how does the race for sixth stand now?

Well, obviously Crusaders, Coleraine, Glenavon, Linfield and Cliftonville are all in the top half. Joining them will be either Glentoran or Ballymena.

After tonight's much-needed success, David Jeffrey's side are four points behind sixth placed Glentoran.

The two meet at the Oval on Friday evening in what is the Glens' last pre-split tie. A win or a draw for Glentoran would be enough to secure a top-half finish.

But, should United win that one, they could sneak past Ronnie McFall's men and into the top half if they also beat Ballinamallard at home on Monday evening.

A win against Glentoran and a draw against the Mallards would see the Braidmen draw level on points with the Glens but the Sky Blues' goal difference is eight goals worse, so barring a four-goal win at the Oval, only two victories will do.

Fifth-placed Cliftonville had won their last three matches in all competitions but fell behind to McMurray's first half finish, the striker bamboozling keeper Brian Neeson for his 10th goal of the season.

It was 2-0 when Flynn smashed home from close range on 73 minutes - the former Cliftonville centre-back's first Premiership goal in over a year.

Jay Donnelly's 20th goal of the season made the six added minutes nervous ones for the visitors but Ballymena saw out the win and so Cliftonville remain four points behind fourth-placed Linfield.

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