Irish Premiership: Sky Blues defeat 10-man Newry to go top

Despair for Newry but joy for Adam Lecky as he celebrates scoring the opener on Friday night
Despair for Newry but joy for Adam Lecky as he celebrates scoring the opener on Friday night

Ballymena have replaced Linfield as the Premiership leaders thanks to a 2-1 away victory over 10-man Newry City.

Adam Lecky tapped in the opener for United and a crisp Andy McGrory strike just before the break made it 2-0.

Newry keeper Andy Coleman was red-carded after clashing with Cathair Friel after 59 minutes.

Dale Montgomery blasted high into the net to give City hope but they couldn't deny Ballymena a sixth straight league win and top spot.

A dull opening 35 minutes will not live long in the memory of a sparse Showgrounds gathering but there was plenty of drama to come.

It started with a bit of magic from James Knowles, who danced his way into the area and found space to chip the ball onto the far post and there was Lecky to prod into an empty net from a yard out.

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Watch: Ballymena edge Newry to take over top spot

The goal sparked the Sky Blues into life and they doubled their lead on 44 minutes with McGrory's clinical finish into the bottom corner from a Reece Glendinning cross.

There was still time before the break from a mass melee, which resulted in three players being booked, followed by City's Darragh Noonan heading in from a corner but seeing it ruled out for an infringement.

The ill-tempered finish to the half continued after the break as Coleman was shown a straight red after shoving a shoulder into Ballymena striker Friel.

Substitute keeper Steven Maguire was quickly in action as he produced fine saves to deny Friel and McGrory.

Newry were far from finished and despite being down to 10 men they pressed for a way back into the game and they found it in the 68th minute.

Dale Montgomery celebrates his goal for Newry in the narrow defeat to league leaders Ballymena
Dale Montgomery celebrates his goal for Newry in the narrow defeat to league leaders Ballymena

A Mark Hughes cross was only cleared into the path of Montgomery, who steadied before arrowing the ball beyond keeper Thomas McDermott.

City pressed for an equaliser before Ballymena halted their momentum and held on for the win which takes them two points clear before Linfield face Cliftonville on Saturday.

Ballymena boss David Jeffrey said: "I'm absolutely delighted although we didn't play anywhere near as well as we have been playing recently in terms of our football.

"But there were other qualities there to be admired - doggedness, resilience, resolve and desire."

Newry manager Darren Mullan said: "I still don't know why our goal before half-time was disallowed.

"The sending off - Andy was stupid but I'd be embarrassed enough if I was that lad dropping to the ground."

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