It was a day of firsts for Ballymena United as Cathair Friel grabbed his maiden goal on his seasonal debut and the Sky Blues can at last boast a Premiership win at Warden Street in 2020.
It’s a game that won’t live long in the memory, but for United and manager David Jeffrey, Friel’s header and a clinical Paul McElroy strike were a timely boost and lifted them out of the bottom two.
“This season, I don’t think we’ve been playing poorly, and I think in games we haven’t got what we deserved and what has ultimately cost us is individual errors,” explained Jeffrey.
“That’s the long and short of it. I remember playing in teams, whether it be at Linfield, Ards or Larne, where you’d be in a run of games when no matter what you did, you weren’t getting anything out of it, and in your subconscious that gnaws at you.
“We just said to them today that we need to cut out the individual errors and make sure there was a real resilience, and I am absolutely delighted.
“In the first-half, I thought we played particularly well, and I’m really pleased to see that both Cathair and Paul McElroy scored, with Ross Redman with two fantastic assists.
“In the second-half, we knew at some stage they would be in the ascendancy, and what was pleasing was, as fluent as we were in the first-half, how we dug in and were very resolute, resilient and dogged and made sure that we kept a clean sheet.”
Friel looked lively on his return to the starting line-up and it was no surprise that United’s perennial top scorer took just a quarter of an hour to announce his arrival in the season, picking himself up after a heavy tackle to exact the ultimate punishment. The superb Redman, whose deliveries were a constant source of danger, took the free-kick and Friel timed his run and jump perfectly to plant his header into the net.
The Sky Blues were in total control but failed to make the most of their possession and chances spurned until four minutes before the break.
Redman was again instrumental in it, his tantalising ball across the area finding McElroy at the right of the area. He took a touch to get the ball onto his left foot and then clinically deposited it into the net.
Warrenpoint, abject in the opening 45 minutes, did make more of a fist of things in the second period but, despite bossing possession, they rarely threatened to make the breakthrough.
“I definitely don’t want to be watching too many more games like that,” said an honest Town boss Barry Gray.
“The game was hard to watch and it’s hard to be responsible for that first-half performance.
“When you come and play against Ballymena and the way they set up, if you can’t deal with the long ball and the second ball off that, then it’s going to be a long day.
“They won the game in the first-half, they didn’t have to do too much in the second and we huffed and puffed, but if there was another 60 minutes in the game we’d still be huffing and puffing.”