Ballymena United 1-4 Linfield

 By Paul Alexander

Linfield created a six-point gap at the top of the Danske Bank Premiership after beating Ballymena United on Friday evening at the Ballymena Showgrounds.

United looked menacing in the 14th minute of the meeting. Joe McCready persisted on the right-wing before producing a cross intended for his strike partner Adam Lecky. Linfield goalkeeper Rohan Ferguson intercepted the delivery by punching it out to Tony Kane whose shot was blocked.

It was January signing McCready who put David Jeffrey’s side in front on 19 minutes. The striker, who was making just his second appearance, stroked the ball across goal with the outside of his right boot – an assured finish which oozed composure.

The away side drew level five minutes after the opener. Centre-back Mark Haughey headed in at the back post following Kirk Millar’s corner from the left.

Jordan Stewart twisted and turned as he tried to find another opening for the Blues but Ross Glendinning did well to tip his effort over the crossbar. The Ballymena keeper then took Niall Quinn’s corner from the air as Jimmy Callacher rose to meet it.

McCready had a curled attempt helped wide of the right post on 42 minutes as the Braidmen tried to regain the advantage. Tony Kane cleared the defensive wall with his free-kick minutes later although it was comfortably gathered by Ferguson.

Linfield went ahead through Stewart during stoppage time at the end of the first half. The 24-year-old swept the ball over the line after Joel Cooper’s effort was blocked on the right.

Ballymena was awarded a free kick on 67 minutes when Callacher was booked for a foul on Joshua Kelly. Half-time substitute Steven McCullough beat the Linfield wall but his set-piece was wide of the right post.

Visiting captain Callacher added to his side’s lead with 74 minutes played. Quinn delivered a corner from the right which was nodded in by the centre-back at the far post. Andrew Waterworth netted the fourth with just over ten minutes to go. Cooper’s initial shot deflected off Glendinning and onto the bar before Waterworth finished from the rebound.

Ballymena United: Ross Glendinning, Balmer, Whiteside, Andrew Burns (Friel, 78), Lavery, L. Millar (McCullough, 46), T. Kane, Kelly, McGrory, Lecky, McCready

Subs not used: Williamson, Addis, Knowles, Winchester, Reece Glendinning

Linfield: Ferguson, Quinn, Callacher, Haughey, Casement, Fallon, McClean (Hery, 81), K. Millar, Stewart (Clarke, 76), Cooper, Waterworth (Currie, 86)

Subs not used: Moore, Stafford, Kearns, Boyle

Referee: Tony Clarke (Newtownabbey)

In-Touch Man of the Match: Jimmy Callacher (Linfield)