Report: Peter Wilson
Photo: Jamie Brennan
Larne’s derby visit to the Ballymena Showgrounds ended in defeat as United came from behind to defeat Tiernan Lynch’s men 2-1.
After an uneventful first half, Davy McDaid opened the scoring on 51 minutes. Conor Keeley replied for Ballymena eight minutes later and, with 15 minutes left, Paul McElroy curled home United’s winner to cap off an exciting second half.
The first half took a little while to get going with a distinct lack of goalmouth action to report on in the first 20 minutes or so.
The Inver Reds’ first real chance of note came on 25 with Graham Kelly firing straight at Jordan Williamson from 22 yards.
Just after half an hour, Ballymena had a golden opportunity to take the lead. The home side broke but Steven McCullough’s turn and finish was well turned away by Rohan Ferguson.
With five minutes remaining in the first period, a good attack from Larne ended with Ben Doherty’s effort being pushed away by Williamson.
A minute later, Paul McElroy surged down the left-hand side and delivered a pinpoint cross towards the back post which found Ryan Waide. The United number 10 headed narrowly over.
Half-Time: Ballymena United 0 Larne 0
It did not take long for the game to kick into life in the second half. With six minutes gone, Davy McDaid fired into the bottom left from the edge of the area, having raced onto Tomas Cosgrove’s cutback.
It did not take long for the Sky Blues to equalise though. Just seven minutes after Larne opened the scoring, Conor Keeley powered home a header from a Ross Redman corner.
In the search for an equaliser, the Invermen made a triple substitution on 70 minutes, Thomas Oluwa, Dean Jarvis, and Lee Lynch replacing Ronan Hale, Graham Kelly, and Ben Doherty respectively.
Ballymena’s comeback was complete with a quarter of an hour left to play. After a Larne free kick came to nothing at one end, McElroy latched onto Williamson’s long ball forward, cut inside on his left foot and curled the ball into the bottom right.
The away side searched for an equaliser but struggled to carve out any clear-cut opportunities.
United almost extended their lead to two on 89 minutes. Substitute David Parkhouse’s header, from a McCullough corner, crashed off the crossbar.
Full-Time: Ballymena United 2 Larne 1
Ballymena United: Williamson, Chapman, Redman, Winchester, McElroy (Parkhouse 81 mins), Waide, McCullough, Kane, Barr, Keeley, Millar (c)
Unused Subs: Johnston, Henderson, Bramall, Loughran, Graham, Smith
Larne: Ferguson, Balmer, Kelly (Jarvis 70 mins), Watson (c) (Lusty 90 mins), Sule, Randall, Hale (Oluwa 70 mins), McDaid, Doherty (Lynch 70 mins), Bolger, Cosgrove
Unused Subs: Argyrides, Scott, Mitchell
Referee: Tony Clarke
Larne return to Inver Park on Friday 17 December as they face second-placed Linfield. Kick off is 7.45pm.