Cliftonville 2 - 1 Ballymena United

League - NIFL Premiership
Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021, 7:45 PM at Solitude
Referee: Shane Andrews
Cliftonville Ballymena United

Ryan Curran (31)
Paul O'Neill (81)
Shay McCartan (42)

Team Managers
Paddy McLaughlin David Jeffrey

Starting Eleven
Aaron McCarey
Garry Breen
Ryan O'Reilly
Christopher Curran
Ryan Curran
Aaron Donnelly
Liam Bagnall
Rory Hale
Kris Lowe
Paul O'Neill
Barry Coffey
Ross Glendinning
Conor Keeley
Jim Ervin
Joshua Kelly
Trai Hume
Ben Wylie
James Knowles
Jude Winchester
Sean Graham
Joseph McCready
Shay McCartan

Declan Dunne
Daire O'Connor
Michael McCrudden
Seanan Foster
Odhran Casey
Lee O'Brien
Daniel Kearns
Kavan Keenan
Ross Redman
Tony Kane
Andrew McGrory
Paul McElroy
Ryan Waide

Daire O'Connor for Rory Hale (57)
Daniel Kearns for Barry Coffey (76)
Ross Redman for Conor Keeley (46)
Ryan Waide for James Knowles (61)
Paul McElroy for Joseph McCready (76)

Garry Breen (45) None.

Red Cards
None. None.
Appearances & Goals To Date
Ross Glendinning (GK) 148 apps -
Joshua Kelly 48 apps3 goals
Jim Ervin 258 apps3 goals
Trai Hume 17 apps1 goal
Conor Keeley 6 apps -
Ben Wylie 4 apps -
James Knowles 48 apps6 goals
Sean Graham 2 apps -
Jude Winchester 76 apps10 goals
Shay McCartan 17 apps5 goals
Joseph McCready 15 apps2 goals
Ross Redman (sub) 18 apps -
Paul McElroy (sub) 18 apps7 goals
Ryan Waide (sub) 15 apps -

Starting Lineup
Youngest Player:Ben Wylie (18 years 244 days)
Oldest Player:Jim Ervin (35 years 272 days)
Average Player Age:25 years 159 days
Domestic Players:10 (90.91 % of starting eleven)

Matchday Squad
Youngest Player:Ben Wylie (18 years 244 days)
Oldest Player:Jim Ervin (35 years 272 days)
Average Player Age:26 years 24 days
Domestic Players:16 (94.12 % of matchday squad)

Ballymena United were edged out at Solitude as they went down 2-1 to Cliftonville on Tuesday evening.

Ahead of a second trip to North Belfast in four days, David Jeffrey shook things up with three changes, as Seamus McCartan and Jude Winchester returned from suspension and injury respectively, while Sean Graham made his first start.

After a spot of sparring early doors, the home side had the first decent chance of the game with a central free kick from just outside the box. Aaron Donnelly drilled the set piece under the Sky Blue wall, but Ross Glendinning held the shot well. United's first chance came shortly after Donnelly's effort via a Josh Kelly half volley, but it was straight at Aaron McCarey.

As the half deepened it continued to be an even affair, but Ballymena could've led when Conor Keeley could only head wide from a free header from a corner. Straight down the other end Ryan Curran was set to tap in from close range, only for a timely Jim Ervin interception.

On the stroke of the half hour mark The Reds opened the scoring when Ervin's clearance ricocheted off Barry Coffey straight into the path of Ryan Curran, who ran in and slotted the ball under Glendinning.

Ballymena responded well to going behind and had their brightest spell of the half in the final ten minutes, and three minutes from the half-time whistle United equalised through McCartan. Trai Hume whipped in a first class ball from the right that Cliftonville's back line failed to deal with, and it fell to McCartan inside the box, who squeezed his shot past McCarey for his third goal at Solitude this season.

With the final attack of the half Ballymena almost went into the break ahead after a floated free kick gave Winchester a chance with half a bicycle kick, but it was an awkward one and went wide as the half ended level.

The Braidmen were forced into a change at the break with Keeley unable to continue. He was replaced by Ross Redman who filled in well at centre half. Ballymena came out of the gates quickly for the second half and a burst of pace and great ball in from Graham, who hugely impressed all night, found Ben Wylie who put a golden chance over the crossbar.

Cliftonville shaded the following twenty or so minutes, seeing more of the ball than beforehand, but not overly worrying United's back line. Captain Chris Curran was able to get himself to the goal line and cross for namesake Ryan, but Hume did well to cut the ball out. It was then Ballymena's turn to edge a spell of play, but despite both teams getting on the ball and the action fairly end to end, neither team could carve out a good chance until the final ten minutes.

United had kept Paul O'Neill quiet all evening but when he found space in the box he looked certain to score, but he was denied by a fantastic last ditch block from skipper Ervin.

However, from the resulting corner, the ball eventually fell to Garry Breen on the right hand side of the box, and the centre back put in a perfect ball across goal for O'Neill, who had somehow evaded everyone in a packed box to head the ball home unchallenged inside the six yard box and put Cliftonville back in front.

Ballymena looked to level late on, but a few good chances to put the ball into the box from set pieces came to nothing as United, who will rightly feel they deserved at least a point, ultimately come away with a fifth straight defeat.

Match report written by Philip McPeake

Pld W D L F A +/- Pts
1. Linfield 19 12 3 4 44 21 23 39
2. Larne 19 10 6 3 33 17 16 36
3. Coleraine 19 10 4 5 28 19 9 34
4. Crusaders 19 10 3 6 37 24 13 33
5. Cliftonville 21 9 5 7 32 25 7 32
6. Glentoran 17 7 6 4 27 15 12 27
7. Glenavon 17 6 6 5 28 29 -1 24
8. Ballymena United 18 7 2 9 24 21 3 23
9. Warrenpoint Town 17 4 5 8 15 29 -14 17
10. Portadown 17 2 6 9 18 38 -20 12
11. Carrick Rangers 17 3 3 11 17 38 -21 12
12. Dungannon Swifts 18 3 3 12 11 38 -27 12
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