Irish Premiership: Five-star Ballymena United thrash Dungannon Swifts

Tony Kane, Paul McElroy and Josh Kelly all scored for Ballymena United
Tony Kane, Paul McElroy and Josh Kelly all scored for Ballymena United

Ballymena United moved into the top six of the Irish Premiership after thrashing Dungannon Swifts 5-1 at the Showgrounds.

David Jeffrey's side led 4-0 at half-time through Paul McElroy's double and goals from Josh Kelly and Trai Hume.

Ben Gallagher pulled a goal back for Dungannon with a header early in the second half.

Tony Kane completed the scoring for Ballymena from the penalty spot - the midfielder's 50th goal for United.

Ballymena took the lead in controversial circumstances in the fourth minute. Ross Redman's inswinging corner was met by the head of Kelly and although Michael Carvill attempted to head clear on the goal-line at the post, referee Steven Gregg awarded the goal on the advice of his assistant Rachel Greer.

If there was some dispute over that goal, there were no question marks as United doubled their advantage on 16 minutes.

Hume played an inch-perfect pass inside defender Matthew Smyth to release McElroy and the striker cut inside and side-stepped keeper Sam Johnston before producing a neat finish.

It should have been 3-0 two minutes later when a fortuitous bounce off a defender sent McElroy clean through on goal but he put his effort well off target.

Dungannon failed to fashion a decent opening until 37 minutes when Carvill's corner was headed back across goal by Callum Byers but skipper Dougie Wilson could only volley over.

Ballymena wasted another clear-cut opening three minuets before the break when Conor Keeley's through ball sent Shay McCartan through on goal but Johnston blocked the effort with his body.

The respite was short-lived, however, as the resulting Redman corner caused havoc in the swirling wind and eventually dropped for Hume to drill home a low shot.

Worse for to follow for Dungannon in stoppage time as Johnston made a dreadful error, taking a heavy touch before losing possession to McElroy who had the simplest of tasks to walk the ball home.

Second-half comfort for Ballymena

The Swifts attempted to find a way back into the match with half-time substitute Ben Gallagher's fierce shot turned behind by Ross Glendinning.

At the other end, Owen McKeown flashed a shot beyond the far post for Ballymena, after some good approach play from McCartan.

Dungannon eventually found a way back into the match on 62 minutes when Ryan Mayse's cross from the right was met with a powerful downward header by Gallagher.

But any hopes of a remarkable comeback were quickly dashed when Ballymena notched a fifth goal on 74 minutes.

Dungannon once again gave away possession deep inside their own half and Ryan Waide's burst into the penalty area was ended by Michael Carvill's bodycheck and Tony Kane sent Johnston the wrong way from the penalty spot.

Kane came close to adding another goal in the closing stages when his inswinging free kick from near the touchline bounced up off the wet turf and clipped the crossbar.

The victory sees Ballymena leapfrog Crusaders into sixth place as they stretched their unbeaten run to nine games.

What they said

David Jeffrey, Bellymena United manager: "I was delighted with the attitude of the players and particularly their reaction to beating Linfield on Tuesday evening.

"Traditionally, people will always look at a team that beats Linfield and look at their next game and the suggestion is that they might not be as 'up for it'.

"But our players were so professional, very efficient and worked extremely hard against a Dungannon team who had a superb result in midweek.

"The players ultimately are the ones who are going to have to carry out your instruction and direction and they did that really well.

"We have our own particular way of playing and it proved most effective today.

"Paul McElroy has been very much an unsung hero. I'm delighted not only with his goalscoring efforts but the work he does for the team is immense."

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