After last gasp agony for Ards last weekend, the Red and Blues travelled to Ballymena in search of much-needed points against the high-flying Sky Blues. Overnight rain necessitated a pitch inspection before kick-off, with the battered Ballymena pitch playable, but in difficult conditions.
It only took three minutes for the home side to open the scoring when, after a penalty appeal was waved away, Cathair Friel’s strong strike inside the box found the back of the net. Six minutes in, Andrew McGrory’s free kick from a dangerous position was just wide of the left hand post before, in the tenth minute, David McAllister’s pass found Gareth Tommons but his volley was off target.
Ballymena scored their second with fourteen minutes gone when Ards keeper Sam Johnston misjudged the pace of the ball and left Adam Lecky an empty net which he took advantage of to make it 2-0 .
In the seventeenth minute Darren Henderson’s shot from a Tommons corner struck the crossbar to the gasps of the Red and Blue Army. Ballymena then had a goal disallowed in the twenty fifty minute as poor defending by Daryl Evans gave Leroy Millar an unmissable chance which was thankfully ruled out.
In the twenty seventh minute Callum Byers' header from another Tommons corner was saved by the Sky Blue keeper, Ross Glendinning. Kim Nelson’s freekick from outside the box was then well saved by Glendinning as Ards looked for a way back in to the game.
Ards did get one back before the break as, in first half stoppage time, Johnston’s free kick found Darren Henderson and his well-placed header found the top corner of the net to make it 2-1, with the first half ending seconds later.
However the good end to the first half was quickly followed by a disappointing start to the second half for Ards when Friel’s pass found fellow goal-scorer Lecky whose shot could have been cleared by the Ards defence but instead they helped it into the back of the net to make it 3-1 in the forty sixth minute.
Stephen McCullough’s pass found James Knowles in the forty eighth minute but his header was off target, before Friel’s close-range strike was well saved by Sam Johnston in the sixty fourth minute and, shortly afterwards, Millar’s volley skimmed the bar as Ballymena looked for a fourth.
In the seventieth minute Henderson’s beautiful pass found substitute Mark Kelly but his volley rebounded off the bar and was cleared by the thankful Ballymena defence. In the seventy second minute, Michael Kerr’s shot from outside the box was over the bar while, at the other end, Evans cleared Friel’s strike for a hat trick off the goal line.
However Ballymena scored their fourth in the seventy ninth minute when Friel’s header following a freekick found the back of the net to make it 4-1. In the closing stages of the game, Lecky’s pass found substitute Tony Kane with his shot saved by Sam Johnston with the game ending 4-1 shortly afterwards.
Another defeat for Ards sees them without a point in four games and two points adrift at the bottom of the table. No game for the Red and Blues this weekend with their next game being a trip to Mourneview Park in Lurgan to face Glenavon the following weekend.
Starting XI: Sam Johnston, Michael Kerr, Eamon McAllister, Callum Byers, Kyle Cherry, David McAllister, Josh Kelly, Gareth Tommons, Kym Nelson, Daryl Evans and Darren Henderson
Used substitutes: Michael McLellan (Darren Henderson), Mark Kelly (Gareth Tommons) and Brendan Bennett (Eamon McAllister).
Unused substitutes: Matthew Davidson, Craig McClean, Adam McAleenan and Eoghan McCawl.
Yellow cards: Callum Byers and Daryl Evans.