Peter Wilson reports from the Ballymena Showgrounds
Larne eased to a 3-0 victory over Ballymena United at the Showgrounds; an early Jeff Hughes penalty and a Lee Lynch brace enough to earn the three points in what was a comprehensive performance.
The win gives Tiernan’s Lynch’s men their first win in six games in all competitions and comes on the back of last week’s 1-1 draw at home to Institute.
The game was only four minutes old when the Inver Reds took the lead, as Lynch was tripped in the box by Declan Carville with referee Evan Boyce pointing to the spot. Skipper Hughes tucked away the resulting spot kick comfortably to give Larne the early lead.
In a blow for Ballymena, Cathair Friel was forced off injured after a foul by ex-Ballymena striker Johnny McMurray in the 13th minute. Freil was replaced by Ryan Mayse.
Larne squandered a great chance to double their lead on half an hour as Tomas Cosgrove released Lynch down the right hand side who squared to McMurray who struggled to find space to take a touch and blazed well over the bar.
The home side’s best chance came nine minutes from the break: after good build-up play, Andy McGrory fired in a cross from the right with no-one able to get on the end and deliver a final touch. Josh Kelly saw his follow-up drive bravely charged down by Albert Watson.
Number two did finally come on 39 minutes as Ben Tilney slipped the ball to McMurray who beautifully laid off to Lynch at the far post who only had to coolly tap in.
Only minutes later, it could have been three as a neat breakaway move involving the combination of Tilney and McMurray ended with Ross Glendinning racing quickly off his line to deny the marksman, after Tilney played it back.
A couple of minutes into the second half, Aaron Burns was in through on goal for the Sky Blues but Cosgrove did well to track his run and make a well-timed intervention.
Lynch got his brace only five minutes later as a neat backheel from Tilney to David McDaid saw the striker pull the ball back to Graham Kelly. He laid it off to the former Sligo Rovers man, and his sublime strike took a deflection as it looped over Glendinning into the bottom corner.
Ballymena should have got a goal back with nine minutes left of normal time as Kenny Kane raced down the right flank and played the ball across goal to Mayse but he somehow couldn’t keep his shot down from six yards out.
A comfortable three points for Larne in the end against an out of sorts Ballymena and with it a welcome return to winning ways for Tiernan Lynch’s men.
Ballymena United: Ross Glendinning, Addis, Freil (Mayse 13), Kane, Carville (McGinty 67), McGrory, Balmer, Ervin, Aaron Burns, Kelly (Andrew Burns 67), Lavery
Unused subs; Williamson, Knowles, Reece Glendinning, Annett
Larne: Devlin, Flowers, Kelly, Watson, Sule, McDaid, Tilney, Lynch, Cosgrove, Hughes (McEleney 62), McMurray (Graham 72)
Unused subs: Mitchell, Ramsey, McKendry, Andrade, Gilmour
Referee: Evan Boyce
Photo: Bill Guiller