Belfast Telegraph

Last minute Cathair Friel goal earns Ballymena victory over Glenavon

Ballymena United 2

Glenavon 1

Goal celebrations for Cathair Friel during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Photo: Laura Davison/Pacemaker Press
Goal celebrations for Cathair Friel during this evening's game at the Ballymena Showgrounds. Photo: Laura Davison/Pacemaker Press

By Alex Mills at the Showgrounds

Striker Cathair Friel last night hit a glorious double at the Warden Street Showgrounds to help Ballymena United rack up their third successive League win.

He bagged the winner in the last 30 seconds to break to hearts of a gutsy Glenavon side, who will be wondering how this game slipped from their grasp.

Friel shot the home team into the lead just after the break, but they managed to hold their advantage for three minutes as young Jordan Jenkins rammed home the equalizer.

Just as the fans were filing away, Friel had the final say – a last gasp sting in the tail.

It was the visitors who sniffed out the first two chances of the game and defender Andrew Doyle was involved in both.

His searching diagonal pass to Josh Daniels on seven minutes caught the United defence cold and, when the impish winger drilled in a low cross, Conor McCloskey failed to supply the finishing touch it deserved.

Then four minutes later, Doyle abandoned his defensive duties to test Jordan Williamson with a stinging low drive from distance that the goalkeeper did well to beat away.

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United responded and almost capitalised on an error between Johnny Tuffey and Daniel Larmour when a moment’s hesitation let in Adam Lecky, but the alter shot-stopper somehow got down to smuggle the ball away from the striker’s toe.

Glenavon carved out the best chance of the half on 23 minutes when Sammy Clingan’s inch perfect pass sent McCloskey clear, but again Williamson rescued United with a stunning low save.

The action then switched quickly to the other end when Tuffey got down to save a Lecky shot with his legs after great work on the left by James Knowles.

United fans were on their feet ready to acclaim a goal six minutes before the break when Knowles whipped in a great cross form the right which was met by Friel, but Doyle got back to hoof the ball off the line.

United forged ahead only two minutes after the restart – a goal that was worth waiting for.

Lecky’s deft touch found Knowles, who sent the big striker hurtling down the right and, when he drilled in a low cross, Friel smashed past Tuffey.

But Jeffrey’s boys managed to hold the lead for three minutes. Jenkins capitalised an a comedy of errors in the United defence and, when the ball broke kindly for him, he gave Williamson no chance from eight yards.

The momentum was now with the visitors and it took two fabulous saves from Williamson to keep United in it. He got down to push away a low drive from Jenkins that was arrowing into the bottom corner, before somehow pushing away a first time shot from Daniels.

In injury time, Lecky went down the win for the last time and when his cross reached Friel at the back post, his volley ballooned the net.

Ballymena United: Williamson, T Kane, Harpur (Kelly 59), Friel, Knowles (McGinty 74), McCullough, Burns, McGrory, Blamer, Ervin, Lecky.

Unused subs: Ross Glendinning, Whiteside, K Kane, Reece Glendinnng, Lavery.

Glenavon: Tuffey, Larmour, Marron, Doyle, Daniels, Marshall, Hall (Beggs 38), Clingan, McCloskey (Murray 82), Singleton, Jenkins (Mitchell 82).

Unused subs: Burns, Harmon, Garrett, Wearen.

Referee: Andrew Davey.

Man of the match: Jordan Williamson.

Match rating 7/10.

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