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Danske Bank Premiership

Ballymena United 3 Ards 4


A late Gareth Tommons goal capped a thrilling game at Ballymena Showgrounds as we defeated the hosts 4-3 to move clear at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership table.


We had begun the day in third position, separated only by goal difference from leaders Crusaders and second placed Glenavon. But as both those sides failed to win, strikes from four different scorers at The Showgrounds were enough to install Niall Currie’s team as unlikely league leaders after four games.


Defender Stuart McMullan, making his first start of the season, edged us ahead ahead just five minutes. A free kick to Ards out to the right of the Ballymena area was clipped into the six yard area by David McAllister and McMullan took advantage of the slack marking to head in.


Ballymena threatened soon after and Ards keeper Aaron Hogg had to pull off a great stop to deny the header from Leroy Millar. United’s equaliser wasn’t long in coming though. On 13 minutes a ball into the box was headed clear by McMullan but only as far as the 18 yard line - close enough for Allan Jenkins to fairly rifle a first time shot past Hogg.


Another McAllister free kick soon tested Ross Glendinning at the other end, before the keeper would also deny Guillaume Keke as he got a crucial hand to the forward’s low shot, which cut across the goal.


Ballymena survived those two attacks to take the lead with 24 minutes gone. After an initial attack was cleared, goal scorer Jenkins turned provider, lifting the ball over the Ards defence to pick up Cathair Friel in an advanced position and he turned a low shot past the goalkeeper.


Just five minutes after that and Ards had the game level again with an almost carbon copy of their first goal. McAllister put another free kick into the Ballymena box from the right and this time captain Emmet Friars glided unnoticed into the right spot to head past Glendinning.


Ballymena’s Leroy Millar would hit a shot against the Ards crossbar and his side would be left to rue that misfortune as they fell behind prior to the half time. Joe McKinney, just back from suspension, got the goal as he weaved his way past a couple of opponents before a touch of luck saw the ball ricochet off a defender then off McKinney before carrying over the head of a stranded Glendinning.


If the second period was even half as good as the first then fans were in for another forty five minutes of entertainment. Ballymena’s third goal, on 53 minutes, suggested that there might be plenty more in the game. The goal came from good work by Kyle Owens up on the left, who delivered a cross into the centre and substitute Caolan Loughran sent a looping header well over the reach of Hogg to tie things up at 3-3.


United might have edged in front again on 65 minutes when Owens’ head met a Tony Kane corner but his goal bound effort was turned away from goal by Kyle Cherry. It was around this time that Ards suffered a blow when we lost defender Fra Brennan to injury. The left-back’s day came to a premature end when he suffered what would later be confirmed as a broken collar bone.


The remainder of the half was keenly contested but was lacking in all important goals - that was however - until a minute from the end. Wide on the right Crag McMillen laid a short pass off to McAllister, who swung in another of his crosses, which this time reached sub Gareth Tommons who swung on the ball to tuck it inside the left hand upright and start the top of the table celebrations for his side.


20th August 2016


Team

18 Aaron Hogg, 2 Greg Hall, 25 Emmet Friars (capt.), 4 Stuart McMullan, 14 Fra Brennan, 6 David McCullough, 20 Kyle Cherry, 7 Craig McMillen, 10 Joe McKinney, 19 Guillaume Keke


Substitutes

8 Ross Arthurs, 12 Jordan Hughes, 16 Gareth Tommons (for Cherry 74), 17 Carl McComb (for Keke 82), 21 Callum Byers (for Brennan 65)


Referee

Ian McNabb


Goals

McMullan (5), Friars (30), McKinney (43), Tommons (89)


Yellows

Friars (67), McMillen (90+3)


Attendance

795


Also

Match highlights (BBC Sport NI)

Gareth Tommons found our later winner at Ballymena
Picture: Gareth McCluskey