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Danske Bank Premiership
Ards 4 Ballymena United 2
MATCH SPONSOR: TG EAKIN MEDICAL SUPPLIES, BALLYSTOCKART ROAD, COMBER
BALL SPONSOR: PATTON’S BAKERY
The first win of the Nixon era was delivered in style on New Year’s Eve as Ballymena
were blown away by a simply stunning second half Ards display.
We twice came from behind and trailed at the break but three goals without reply
in the second half delivered our first league win in just short of three months and
a well deserved one it was too.
Ards had opened the match brightly but all that changed when Ballymena went ahead
with just nine minutes gone. After failing to clear the ball up in the left corner
a swift pass from Jonny McMurray to Willie Faulkner saw him strike a low effort from
about ten yards. The ball rebounded off the post and seemingly safe into the arms
of Aaron Hogg, only for the keeper to make a real mess of things and allow the ball
to squirm free and roll over the line.
Ballymena asserted a fair bit of authority following their goal and Ards had to defend
well to keep the score at 1-0. On 24 minutes Ards captain Emmet Friars came close
to levelling the game but he was denied at the back post by keeper Ross Glendinning.
Just a minute later and Ards were level though. Craig McMillen’s deep in-swinging
cross from the right found a path to the virtually unmarked Carl McComb and he directed
a great header past the keeper from around the penalty spot.
Ballymena would hold the advantage going into the break however when they scored
a second goal with just three minutes remaining of the first half. A fast break from
Faulkner out of his own half left a couple of Ards players trailing and when Faulkner
pushed the ball forward to McMurray, the big forward took a few touches before knocking
it between the legs of Greg Hall and past the likely unsighted Hogg at his near post.
Whatever words Colin Nixon imparted to his troops at the interval certainly seemed
to do the trick as Ards emerged the dominant side in the second half with Ballymena
simply having no response.
Just over 30 seconds after the restart Ards had pulled the game level. A throw in
on high up on the left was knocked into the area by Guillaume Keke and from a McComb
lay off, Kyle Cherry had the easy task of rattling the ball in from about ten yards.
On 52 minutes McComb provided another assist; this time playing a pass through for
Keke, whose well driven shot found only the side netting. Not long after and another
McComb break saw him play in David McAllister, but his shot from the left side of
the area was comfortably saved by Glendinning.
Both sides were to make strong penalty appeals soon after. Ballymena’s Allan Jenkins
looked to be fouled by Gareth Tommons just on the edge of the Ards area and then
moments later Tommons himself appeared to the clear victim of a challenge from behind
but referee Boyce denied both claims.
With 11 minutes remaining Ards went in front for the first time. From a McMillen
corner on the right Glendinning seemed to flap at the ball opening up just enough
space for the skipper Friars to get the faintest of touches and head his side into
a 3-2 lead.
Ards looked to wrap up the points on 82 minutes when McMillen slipped a ball inside
for the impressive McComb, who picked his spot only for the shot to come back off
the post. Substitute Gary Liggett was following up and he looked certain to finish
but somehow the ball ended up wide.
Liggett would soon make amends however when he grabbed his first goal for the club
with six minutes left. Ballymena had been on the attack but after Cherry had made
a stunning interception in the Ards box, a single pass from McAllister that covered
some 60 yards put Liggett in the clear and he placed the ball low past Glendinning
to end 2016 on a winning note.
31st December 2016
18 Aaron Hogg, 2 Greg Hall, 25 Emmet Friars (capt.), 5 Johnny Taylor, 3 Michael Ruddy,
7 Craig McMillen, 20 Kyle Cherry, 16 Gareth Tommons, 11 David McAllister, 17 Carl
McComb, 19 Guillaume Keke
4 Stuart McMullan, 8 Ross Arthurs (for McComb 90+2), 9 Gary Liggett (for Keke 67),
12 Jordan Hughes, 14 Fra Brennan