Ballymena United 1 - 0 Cliftonville

League - NIFL Premiership
Saturday, September 2nd, 2017, 3:00 PM at Ballymena Showgrounds
Attendance: 1,241
Referee: Steven Gregg
Ballymena United  Cliftonville

Emmet Friars (75)

Team Managers
David Jeffrey
Barry Gray

Starting Eleven
Conor Brennan
Andrew Burns
Jim Ervin
Jonathan Flynn
Kyle Owens
Steven McCullough
Tony Kane
Conor McCloskey
Gary Thompson
Joseph McKinney
Matthew Shevlin
Brett Long
Jaimie McGovern
Garry Breen
Chris Curran
Stephen Garrett
Liam Bagnall
Joe Gormley
Jay Donnelly
Tomas Cosgrove
Aaron Donnelly
Rory Donnelly

Emmet Friars
Francis McCaffrey
Michael Gault
William Faulkner
Cathair Friel
Levi Ives
Christopher Ramsey
Daniel Hughes
Martin Donnelly
Jude Winchester

Cathair Friel for Joseph McKinney (63)
Emmet Friars for Kyle Owens (73)
William Faulkner for Matthew Shevlin (82)
Daniel Hughes for Joe Gormley (69)

Tony Kane (27)
Matthew Shevlin (53)
Gary Thompson (80)
Tomas Cosgrove (25)
Joe Gormley (30)
Liam Bagnall (56)
Garry Breen (84)

Red Cards
None. None.
Appearances & Goals To Date
Conor Brennan (GK) 3 apps -
Steven McCullough 4 apps -
Andrew Burns 3 apps -
Jim Ervin 134 apps2 goals
Kyle Owens 52 apps7 goals
Jonathan Flynn 43 apps3 goals
Tony Kane 241 apps34 goals
Gary Thompson 175 apps18 goals
Conor McCloskey 40 apps6 goals
Joseph McKinney 23 apps2 goals
Matthew Shevlin 38 apps6 goals
Emmet Friars (sub) 6 apps1 goal
William Faulkner (sub) 77 apps11 goals
Cathair Friel (sub) 53 apps24 goals

Starting Lineup
Youngest Player:Matthew Shevlin (18 years 274 days)
Oldest Player:Jim Ervin (32 years 97 days)
Average Player Age:25 years 244 days
Domestic Players:11 (100.00 % of starting eleven)

Matchday Squad
Youngest Player:Matthew Shevlin (18 years 274 days)
Oldest Player:Michael Gault (34 years 149 days)
Average Player Age:26 years 207 days
Domestic Players:16 (100.00 % of matchday squad)

Substitute Emmet Friars provided the only goal of the game which allowed David Jeffrey’s Sky Blues to claim their first league victory of the season against Cliftonville.

Much like each of Ballymena United’s preceding four league games, it was a scoreless first half at the Showgrounds. Cliftonville’s forward line was blostered by the return of striker Rory Donnelly to the club, but the first period was largely dominated by the Sky Blues without any tangible end product.

Ballymena had the better of the early half-chances with both Joe McKinney and Steven McCullough failing to trouble Brett Long in the visitors goal. With 17 minutes gone, a big shout for a penalty was turned away by referee Steven Gregg as McKinney was upended in the area.

Chances were few and far between, but it was McKinney again who was involved in the final action of the first half as the Sky Blues continued to try and force a way through when his close range effort was blocked by the goalkeeper.

On the hour mark Conor McCloskey sparked the Braidmen into life when he flashed a low drive across the face of goal, which merely needed a touch from a home player. Shortly after Tony Kane’s header from the edge of the penalty area drew Long into action as he was forced to tip the goal-bound effort over.

On 64 minutes, Joe Gormley fashioned the Reds’ best chance to date when he found a rare yard of space but could only drill a stinging effort straight at Conor Brennan who confidently palmed the ball away to safety.

Defender Emmet Friars was introduced as substitute for the injured Kyle Owens on 73 minutes and made an immediate impact! He almost opened the scoring with his first touch as his header was tipped over for a corner by the Cliftonville goalkeeper.

However from the resulting corner, his second touch proved to be the matchwinner as he directed Tony Kane’s low drive into the back of the net to open the scoring.

Cliftonville proceeded to throw everything at Ballymena for the final stages of the game, with Johnny Flynn called upon to make a last ditch challenge to stop substitute Daniel Hughes from breaking three for a goalscoring opportunity.

Barry Gray’s side saved their best opportunity for stoppage time when Hughes’ superb long-range strike was deflected narrowly wide by a United defender as the Sky Blues held out for their first win of the Danske Bank Premiership season.

David Jeffrey was naturally delighted with the victory, “We have found ourselves having to adapt to expectations, and we have followed that up with performances against Linfield.”

“What has been pleasing is that through this difficult period, is how much our supporters have been immense in how have backed us! I knew that a goal would likely have been enough to win it and I am really pleased that we got the win and I don’t think anyone can say we didn’t deserve it.”

Goalscorer Emmett Friars was happy to be in the right place at the right time -“Nine times out of ten Tony hit’s the target so I was sitting at the far post hoping I could help the ball go in – and managed to get a touch to it and it went in!”

“Even the last week we can see there was a different feeling in the changing room, there is a spring in the step and winning can become a habit. We’ve earned that wee bit of luck and to win 1-0 against Cliftonville is a result that we would take any time of the season.”

Match report written by Official Ballymena United website

Pld W D L F A +/- Pts
1. Coleraine 5 5 0 0 13 5 8 15
2. Linfield 4 4 0 0 9 0 9 12
3. Glentoran 5 3 2 0 9 4 5 11
4. Glenavon 5 3 1 1 19 11 8 10
5. Crusaders 4 3 0 1 12 4 8 9
6. Dungannon Swifts 5 2 0 3 4 9 -5 6
7. Carrick Rangers 4 1 2 1 4 4 0 5
8. Cliftonville 5 1 1 3 8 9 -1 4
9. Ballymena United 5 1 1 3 4 12 -8 4
10. Warrenpoint Town 5 1 0 4 4 12 -8 3
11. Ballinamallard United 5 0 1 4 4 13 -9 1
12. Ards 4 0 0 4 3 10 -7 0
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