Mark Sykes misses tonight’s game after having to have an infected toenail removed this morning. Andy Hall comes in for his debut and Joel Cooper is on from the start after impressing as a substitute in Saturday’s opening day defeat to Cliftonville. Mark Patton and Kris Lindsay drop to the bench with David Elebert coming in at centre half alongside Simon Kelly.
Watched by a large and vocal away support, which was much appreciated by the players, management and Club Directors, Glenavon turned in a performance that was as far from Saturday’s disappointing showing as night is from day. Right from the first whistle they were on the front foot and within seconds had won the first corner of the match. When that resulted in another corner Kyle Neill whipped it in again like the previous one. This time the ball fell to Rhys Marshall, who had been doubtful after feeling ill during the warm up, at the far post and he lobbed it over Alan Blayney and saw the ball nestle in the net with less than 60 seconds on the clock. That was the ideal start to help settle the team down after Saturday and with tackles won all over the park and the team maintaining a high tempo throughout, Ballymena simply couldn’t live with Glenavon.
Rhys Marshall put the Lurgan Blues ahead inside a minute when he dinked the ball over Alan Blayney from Kyle Neill’s corner and it beat Stephen McBride’s desperate attempt to clear it inside the post.
Elebert doubled the lead in the 10th minute when he powerfully headed Hall’s corner past Blayney.
Kevin Braniff smashed the ball past the Sky Blues keeper in the 20th minute after Eoin Bradley capitalised on a mistake by Paddy McNally and won the ball before playing his strike partner in with a clear run on goal.
Glenavon made it 4-0 in the 29th minute with a 3rd goal from their 4th corner. Neill sent his set piece over everyone and it fell to Braniff beyond the far post. He drilled a low shot which was turned in by Bradley.
Sky Blues substitute Matthew Shevlin pulled a goal back in the 53rd minute when he ran clear and fired past Jonny Tuffey. This came moments after Bradley had smashed a shot off the upright and Cooper had a low shot saved at the foot of his post by Blayney’s boot after another Bradley shot had been blocked in the area.
Hall restored the four goal cushion when he ran from his own half right through the centre of a non-existent Ballymena midfield and defence before burying an unstoppable shot past Blayney.
In the 74th minute Bradley showed what he’s all about, sheer power and strength as he outmuscled Allan Jenkins 20 yards out before smashing a netbuster past a bemused Alan Blayney.
Bradley completed his hat trick 11 minutes from time when he powered a close range header through Blayney’s gloves after Neill’s miss-hit corner wasn’t cleared and Mark Patton crossed the ball back into the six yard area.
It could have been more, Blayney saving another Bradley shot after a good run and cross from Hall and he also denied Patton who saw his powerful shot well turned round the post.
Thanks for Sport Media NI for permission to use their photographs from last night’s game.
Ballymena Utd.: Blayney, T Kane, McNally (Shevlin 37), McVey, McBride, E Kane (Thompson 46), Faulkner, Jenkins (c), Hanley (Ferguson 77), Cushley, Tipton. Subs not used: Ruddy, Henderson
Glenavon: Tuffey, Marshall, Kelly (Hamilton 75), Elebert (c) (Lindsay 68), Neill, Hall, Dillon, Kilmartin, Cooper (Patton 75), Bradley, Braniff. Subs not used: McGrory, O’Brien
Cautions: Elebert 36, Hanley, 46, T Kane 62,
Referee: Tim Marshall