Ballynure Old Boys open up a 12-point gap at summit

Ballynure Old Boys' manager Gary Burns.
Ballynure Old Boys' manager Gary Burns.

Strikes by Mark Leckey and Ricky Higgins secured victory for Ballynure Old Boys and increased their lead at the top of the Ballymena Intermediate Division to 12 points.

The wide open spaces at Allen Park provided no protection from the gale-force wind that made playing fluent football almost impossible.

Even with the elements in their favour in the first half, Corner were seldom in Ryan Stewart’s penalty area, so his efforts were restricted to dealing with long range efforts.

His opposite number wasn’t much busier, for although Gary Burns’ lads had the major share of possession, there was no end product until Leckey blasted home from the penalty spot following a handling offence.

Now backed by the strong wind the visitors were expecting to run riot in the second half, but the hosts almost equalised on the hour when Stewart did well to hold on to a close-range volley.

This scare sparked Ballynure in to action. Josh McIlroy put Ricky Higgins in, but the keeper pulled off a brilliant fingertip save, and moments later Ronnie Burns threaded the ball through to Simon McGreevy, but his effort crashed against the bar.

Burns looked set to get that important second goal when he found himself on a one-against-one with the keeper who dived at the striker’s feet to prevent a certain score.

Eventually, two minutes from time Burns jinked past a couple of defenders before crossing to Higgins, whose header gave the keeper no chance.

“The gale ruined the game; passing the ball was a lottery, so play kept breaking down,” said Gary Burns (inset). “It wasn’t one of our best performances, but sometimes you have to win ugly.

“However with Magherafelt Sky Blues having no game we have stretched our lead at the top to 12 points, but Newtowne and Brantwood each have five matches in hand, so the title is not in the bag,” he cautioned.

Ballynure OB: Stewart; Penny, Leckey, M Curlett, Officer; S Duff, M Duff, Robinson, McGreevy; R Higgins, McIlroy. Subs: Watson, Armstrong, Hughes, R Burns.

Third-placed Desertmartin are the visitors on Saturday for the Intermediate Division match of the day.