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Friday 28th January v. Cliftonville (home) - Danske Bank Premiership - k.o: 7:45pm

Cliftonville Match Preview

Uploaded Saturday, 1st Jan, 2022 at 18:41

Date: Saturday, 1st January, 2022; Competition: Danske Bank Premiership; Attendance: 1289;
Ballymena United [2] [4]
Portadown [0] [0]
Venue: Ballymena Showgrounds; Kick-Off: 15:00;
Referee: Tim Marshall; Assistant 1: Adam Jeffrey; Assistant 2: Kristian Hanna; 4th Official: Lee Tavinder;
Goals:
[1-0] WINCHESTER, Jude (22 mins), [2-0] PARKHOUSE, David (30 mins), [3-0] REDMAN, Ross (56 mins), [4-0] PARKHOUSE, David (78 mins)

BALLYMENA United rang in the New Year in style with an emphatic 4-0 home victory over Portadown on Saturday afternoon.
United were left with a depleted squad for this one as a number of Covid cases, injuries and suspensions saw David Jeffrey only able to name four substitutes, but there were returns to the side for Conor Keeley and Jude Winchester.
On a pitch clearly suffering from a torrential rainshower prior to kick off, it was the away side who started the better in a scrappy opening period. The Ports could easily have taken the lead when Oisin Conaty crossed for Michael Ruddy, but he sent a free header wide.
Shortly afterwards Matthew Tipton's men caught United napping with a quick free kick and Samuel Johnston was forced into a near post save to keep out Stephen Teggart. From the resulting corner, Portadown somehow were prevented from making it 1-0. First, Barney McKeown saw a close range header smash off the underside of the bar, before Sammie McLeod's rebound was blocked on the line by Keeley, as Ballymena finally cleared their lines.
That close shave sparked a bit of life into the Sky Blues and on twenty-two minutes they made the Ports pay as Winchester opened the scoring on his return from illness. Ross Redman's cross found David Parkhouse who did well to hold it up for Winchester, but after seeing his first effort saved by Jethren Barr, Winchester was alert to follow up on the rebound and hammer home his fourth of the season.
It could've been two soon after when it was Keeley's turn to see an effort of his own cleared off the line, but after a period of good football from the Braidmen, they doubled their lead on the half hour mark with a touch of class from Parkhouse. Redman was unplayable at times and his cross from the left was initially dealt with by Greg Hall, but as his header came back out of sky, Monday's hero Parkhouse reacted quickest to volley home in clinical fashion from close range.
McLeod went on to see a forceful snapshot kept out by Johnston, but after a quiet opening fifteen minutes, United went to the break deservedly in front.
The Sky Blues picked up were they'd left off at the beginning of the second half and missed a golden chance to make it three early on. Winchester broke clear with the ball down the right hand side and when he eventually played it across goal for Parkhouse, he completely missed the ball as he looked to sweep home a third.
Five minutes later however United had Portadown almost out of sight with that third. After winning a corner, Redman took his set piece duty and his in-swinging corner appeared to go all the way in at the back stick. Parkhouse and a defender had rose for the ball, but with no touches clear to see, the goal went to Redman, and a thoroughly deserved one after his performance.
Portadown looked like a team down and out as the game began to somewhat peter out after Redman's goal, but the visitors almost pulled one back when Ruddy somehow hooked the ball onto the bar from an almost impossible angle, with Johnston looking to get a touch on it to keep it out.
Steven McCullough looked hungry for a goal in a more advanced role and was unfortunate to see a half volley loop over, but with thirteen minutes left it was four as the sensational Parkhouse grabbed his second. Kenny Kane slid a ball through for Parkhouse who beat the offside trap, before firing home with the coolest of finishes into the far corner across Barr as he continues to endear himself to the Showgrounds faithful.
Despite only have four on the bench, David Jeffrey utilised the lot, including a return to action for Caolan Loughran and a rare appearance for youngster Jordan McMullan. McCullough went close again late on as his thirty yard shot was tipped over by Barr, before Leroy Millar went agonisingly close to making it five at the end, but it mattered not as four goals, a clean sheet and a stellar showing saw United rise into the top six.
Ballymena United get their Samuel Gelston's Whiskey Irish Cup campaign underway next Saturday when they host Loughgall in the first round.
Match Report by Phillip McPeake
Ballymena United Team:
Samuel Johnston, Ross Redman, Jude Winchester ( Lee Chapman 75), Steven McCullough, Kenneth Kane ( Spencer Beattie 81), Christopher Rodgers, Andrew McGrory ( Jordan McMullan 87), David Parkhouse, Conor Keeley ( Caolan Loughran 81), Leroy Millar, Sean Graham.