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Majestic McCartan is the hero as Ballymena stun Cliftonville

Cliftonville 0 Ballymena United 4


Blocked out: Cliftonville’s Joe Gormley is denied by Ballymena’s Jordan Williamson

Blocked out: Cliftonville’s Joe Gormley is denied by Ballymena’s Jordan Williamson

Blocked out: Cliftonville’s Joe Gormley is denied by Ballymena’s Jordan Williamson

Three days on from banking their first home win of 2020, Ballymena United obliterated Cliftonville's perfect Premiership record at Solitude with a commanding 4-0 victory on Tuesday night.

Two-goal Shay McCartan caught the eye with a sensational individual display, with Paul McElroy and Leroy Millar also on target for the dominant visitors, who restricted the Reds to just a single shot on target.

Having come into the contest on the back of a 2-0 win over Warrenpoint Town that simultaneously ended their recent losing streak and delivered a first home triumph of the calendar year, it was no surprise to see David Jeffrey stick with the same XI, with fit-again Cathair Friel once again teaming up with fellow weekend goalscorer McElroy in a frontline ably supported by McCartan.

And it was the former Northern Ireland international who was first to threaten with a second-minute shot that was deflected behind by Ryan O'Reilly.

McCartan wasn't to be denied, however, and duly got his name on the scoresheet with a low drive from the edge of the box that took just enough of a nick off Garry Breen to steer the ball beyond Richard Brush.

United could have doubled their advantage on 14 minutes during a goalmouth scramble that saw efforts from McElroy and Millar charged down while, less than 60 seconds later, Breen headed over from Thomas Maguire's corner at the other end.

Cliftonville had struggled to exert visiting keeper Jordan Williamson, but he was quickly off his line to stop Joe Gormley making the most of Ronan Doherty's 26th-minute throughball and he was also in the thick of things seven minutes before the break when the Reds felt they should have been awarded a penalty when Conor McMenamin went down in a foot race with Williamson, but referee Ross Dunlop wasn't convinced.

The Carrickfergus official did, however, point to the spot early in the second half when O'Reilly barged into McElroy after some McCartan trickery inside the box; McElroy stepping up to make it 2-0 from 12 yards.

What slim hopes Cliftonville had of salvaging anything disappeared on 55 minutes when McCartan's deflected free-kick sneaked into the corner.

The hosts should have pulled one back when Gormley held Ciaran Kelly off but dragged wide.

United hit their fourth on 79 minutes when a sweeping move ended with Ross Redman teeing Millar up just outside the area.

CLIFTONVILLE: Brush, McDermott, G Breen, O'Reilly, C Curran, R Curran, McMenamin, McKee (O'Connor, 52 mins), Doherty, Gormley, Maguire (McCrudden, 52 mins). Unused subs: Dunne, Foster, Bagnall, Casey, Scannell.

BALLYMENA: Williamson, Redman, Addis, Friel, McElroy, McCartan, Balmer, Hume, Millar, C Kelly, J Kelly. Unused subs: Glendinning, T Kane, Winchester, Harpur, Waide, Ervin, McCready.

Referee: Ross Dunlop (Carrickfergus)

Man of the match: Shay McCartan

Match rating: 7/10

Belfast Telegraph