Newry City will play Premiership football next season after their second win in successive games since the split saw them secure top flight status.
Paul Keenan was the man who did the job with his second goal in two games, this one inside the opening 60 seconds, against a lack-lustre Ballymena outfit who had Mark Surgenor red-carded in the second period.
Gerry Flynn’s men got off to the perfect start when Alan Davidson broke forward cracked in a 25 yard shot that Dwayne Nelson couldn’t hold low to his left hand side. The ball spun free and the alert Stephen Garrett was able to nip in and pull the ball back for Keenan score from eight yards.
Garrett went even closer two minutes before the break when Keenan’s raking crossfield pass found his strike partner just inside the box on the right. Garrett guided it past Nelson but could only look on in despair as the ball came back off the inside of the left post and was cleared.
The second half appeared to be drifting along without incident until three minutes before the hour mark when United were reduced to 10 men following Surgenor’s late lunge on Steven Ferguson that saw referee Colin Burns produce a straight red card.
Garrett forced Nelson into a full length save low to his right hand side with 12 minutes remaining after he had latched onto Keenan’s flick.
Three minutes later, United nearly got an unlikely equaliser when substitute Noel Anderson found space on the left and squared it for Aidan Watson but Ross Black got across to make a timely intervention.
Newry City: Coleman, King, Black, Feeney, Munster, McDonnell, Davidson (Rowe 64), Ferguson (Hazley 58), Henderson, Garrett, Keenan (Graham 80). Subs not used: Keegan, Boyd
Ballymena United: Nelson, Smith A Stewart, Ramsey, Albert Watson, Aidan Watson, Lemon (Anderson 54), Taggart, Surgenor, Kelbie, Muir. Subs not used: Haveron, McVeigh, G Stewart
Referee: Colin Burns (Newtownabbey)