Seven-goal thriller ends in Ballymena blues for Ports

� Press Eye - Belfast - 1st January 2016.'Danske Bank Premiership.  Portadown v Ballymena.'Ports' Sean Mackle'celebrates after scoring to make it 3-2'during the New Year's Day  match at Shamrock Park'Photo by TONY HENDRON/Presseye.
� Press Eye - Belfast - 1st January 2016.'Danske Bank Premiership. Portadown v Ballymena.'Ports' Sean Mackle'celebrates after scoring to make it 3-2'during the New Year's Day match at Shamrock Park'Photo by TONY HENDRON/Presseye.

The fans who braved the elements were served up seven goals in a Shamrock Park thriller that handed Ballymena United a 4-3 success to start the New Year at Portadown’s expense.

David Miskelly enjoyed a comfortable opening on his 400th appearance for the club but then failed a gather David Cushley’s angled drive after eight minutes.

However, Portadown managed to clear the danger before Gareth Rodger could convert inside the packed penalty area.

The Ports worked an opening thanks to neat play along the right by Chris Casement and a clipped cross from Mark McAllister but Darren Murray was unable to control the delivery from his central position in the box.

Ross Redman’s corner-kick then created confusion in the Ballymena backline and the ball deflected off Marcio Soares towards the goal then Keith O’Hara had an attempt blocked on the line.

Ballymena’s response produced the first goal of the afternoon as Cushley’s long-range drive bounced off the underside of the crossbar and into the path of Allan Jenkins, with the striker heading home the rebound from a few yards.

McAllister was presented with a golden opportunity to level off Murray’s throw-in but his close-range shot lacked power.

However, teenager Soares was on target after 35 minutes by slotting home Casement’s low cross from the right.

Soares proved a threat across the early stages of the second half, displaying neat skill in one move before releasing Murray during another attack. Murray’s low drive was stopped by Alan Blayney then Johnny Taylor slid in to hack away the rebound.

The pressure featured a deflected drive by McAllister and sidefoot wide of the target from Garry Breen.

Breen enjoyed greater success moments later on 53 minutes with a back-post header that handed Portadown control. Redman’s initial corner-kick was cleared but the left-back returned the loose ball towards the far post and Breen converted with a powerful header.

Ballymena carved out two promising openings either side of a Robert Garrett drive in the aftermath of the goal. However, Jenkins’ header handed Miskelly a comfortable save and Anthony Kane could only poke wide of the post from a tight angle.

The visitors got back on level terms just before the hour mark thanks to clever link-up play between Gary Thompson and Stephen McBride that ended with the latter steering in a right-foot drive for his first goal in Ballymena colours.

The entertainment continued with two goals inside one minute - with the home supporters cheering Sean Mackle’s drive before the away fans had cause for cheer thanks to a Cushley shot.

Mackle was rewarded for his driving run forward with a goal on 68 minutes but Ballymena regrouped and Thompson showed fine skill to travel across the edge of the box before picking out Cushley and a slick low drive nestled in the net.

Taylor was presented with two sights of goal in quick succession but Miskelly blocked one with his chest and the second, off Kane’s free-kick, lacked direction.

Portadown produced quickfire attempts but Blayney clawed Redman’s curling free-kick out of the top corner then Casement cleared the crossbar.

The final twist arrived on 89 minutes when Jenkins fired home a superb shot into the top corner off Matthew Shevlin’s pass.

PORTADOWN: David Miskelly, Chris Casement, Ross Redman, Keith O’Hara, Garry Breen, Sean Mackle, Darren Murray, Mark McAllister, Marcio Soares, Matthew Parker, Robert Garrett. Subs: Billy Brennan, Jordan Lyttle, Mark Carson, Padraig Judge (on for Soares, 62 mins), Christian Stewart.

BALLYMENA UNITED: Alan Blayney, Jim Ervin, Johnny Taylor, Gareth Rodger, Stephen McBride, Anthony Kane, Gary Thompson, Eoin Kane, Stewart Nixon, Allan Jenkins, David Cushley. Subs: Paddy McNally, Darren Henderson, Matthew Shevlin (on for Nixon, 62 mins), Matthew Ferguson (on for E.Kane, 79 mins), Nathan Hanley.

Referee: Raymond Hetherington.