Cliftonville 1 - 0 Ballymena United

League - NIFL Premiership
Saturday, November 25th, 2017, 3:00 PM at Solitude
Attendance: 1,304
Referee: Arnold Hunter (Maguiresbridge)
Cliftonville Ballymena United

Stephen Garrett (70) None.

Team Managers
Barry Gray David Jeffrey

Starting Eleven
Brian Neeson
Jaimie McGovern
Levi Ives
Garry Breen
Jamie Harney
Christopher Curran
Jude Winchester
Stephen Garrett
Joe Gormley
Jay Donnelly
Rory Donnelly
Ross Glendinning
Emmet Friars
Jim Ervin
Kofi Balmer
Steven McCullough
Tony Kane
Conor McCloskey
Francis McCaffrey
Gary Thompson
Cathair Friel
Jonathan McMurray

Declan Dunne
Daniel Hughes
Martin Donnelly
Liam Bagnall
Ross Lavery
Kyle Owens
Michael Gault
William Faulkner
Joseph McKinney
Matthew Shevlin

Liam Bagnall for Jude Winchester (67) William Faulkner for Conor McCloskey (79)
Matthew Shevlin for Francis McCaffrey (79)
Joseph McKinney for Gary Thompson (82)

Liam Bagnall (89) None.

Red Cards
None. None.
Appearances & Goals To Date
Ross Glendinning (GK) 44 apps -
Jim Ervin 149 apps2 goals
Emmet Friars 12 apps2 goals
Steven McCullough 18 apps -
Tony Kane 251 apps36 goals
Kofi Balmer 6 apps1 goal
Francis McCaffrey 35 apps6 goals
Conor McCloskey 54 apps8 goals
Gary Thompson 191 apps21 goals
Cathair Friel 69 apps33 goals
Jonathan McMurray 51 apps20 goals
William Faulkner (sub) 88 apps11 goals
Matthew Shevlin (sub) 43 apps7 goals
Joseph McKinney (sub) 35 apps3 goals

Starting Lineup
Youngest Player:Kofi Balmer (17 years 71 days)
Oldest Player:Jim Ervin (32 years 181 days)
Average Player Age:25 years 354 days
Domestic Players:11 (100.00 % of starting eleven)

Matchday Squad
Youngest Player:Kofi Balmer (17 years 71 days)
Oldest Player:Michael Gault (34 years 233 days)
Average Player Age:26 years 11 days
Domestic Players:16 (100.00 % of matchday squad)

A SINGLE goal from Stephen Garrett was enough to give Cliftonville a 1-0 win over Ballymena United at Solitude.

It was a fairly even start to the game with most of the opening quarter of the match being played in the middle of the park in a bitterly cold North Belfast. The first chance of the game fell to the visitors. A shot from Gary Thompson was blocked, but only as far as Conor McCloskey, who in turn dragged his effort wide. It took until the 12th minute for Cliftonville to really threaten United's goal. Chris Curran made a good run into the box and sent a dangerous ball across goal, being narrowly missed by the onrushing Garrett.

Ballymena's defence was tested on 15 minutes by another dangerous ball, but Emmett Friars was equal to it. This time Rory Donnelly provided the ball and Joe Gormley looked certain to tap home, only for Friars to make a great clearance in time. With both sides continuing to be evenly matched, Cathair Friel had two chances to get a shot away. His first effort was blocked and on the rebound Friel's half volley went high and wide.

Tony Kane went agonisingly close twice inside 3 minutes for The Sky Blues. First up, Kane was teed up by Gary Thompson, but his dipping shot from the edge of the box went just over the bar. United then won a free kick 25 yards out, which Kane took. His attempt was almost a carbon copy of his chance 3 minutes prior, dipping just over. As United began to take a hold on the game, a quick counter attack ended with a tenacious Friel crossing for strike partner Johnny McMurray, but he failed to connect with the ball at all.

On 35 minutes Ballymena couldn't have came closer to going ahead as McCloskey struck the post. Fra McCaffrey did well to win back possession in a 50/50 and he found McCloskey, who had time to pick a spot, before seeing his shot come back off the post and into the arms of a grateful Brian Neeson. 5 minutes later the Cliftonville woodwork was hit again. A poor clearance from Neeson fell straight to McMurray and from distance he took the shot on, with the ball rattling the crossbar before going over.

With United looking the more likely to score before the break, the home side almost nicked a goal. A deep free kick from Levi Ives to the back post seemed to hit Kane last, forcing Ross Glendinning to make a smart save. With the last play of the half a good move from United ended with McCloskey picking out McCaffrey in the box, but he headed just over as the half ended scoreless.

Just like in the first half, the second was even for the opening minutes. The first chance came the way of Rory Donnelly, but he could only blast over from outside the box. At the other end a deep throw in from McCloskey was cleared by Jay Donnelly, only as far as McCaffrey who hooked the ball back towards goal and with Neeson scrambling, the ball landed on the roof of the net. As the half progressed Cliftonville began to seize control of play. Garrett began a quick break and found Rory Donnelly, whose shot was blocked by Kofi Balmer for a corner. On the third attempt at a cross from the corner the ball came to defender Garry Breen, who could only head wide.

On 55 minutes Glendinning was forced into a fine save to deny Gormley. The forward did well to turn Steven McCullough and get his shot away, only for United's 'keeper to brilliantly tip the ball over. Minutes later Gormley went close again. This time he chased down a long clearance before flashing a shot just wide. On 62 minutes Glendinning was called into action again. Jude Winchester had the time to get a shot away and his effort was spilled by Glendinning, before being cleared. With 22 minutes remaining Ballymena somehow managed to keep The Reds out. Winchester delivered a menacing low ball across goal and Gormley's shot was blocked by Glendinning at point blank range before Jim Ervin cleared on the line.

On the 70 minute mark United's resistance was broken as the home team broke the deadlock. Rory Donnelly, similar to McCloskey in the first half, had a go from the right and his shot came back of the post, but the rebound landed at the feet of Garrett, who fired into the empty goal from close range.

David Jeffrey turned to the bench, bringing on Willie Faulkner, Joe McKinney and Matthew Shevlin to try and find an equaliser. Inside the final 10 minutes United pushed hard to level and Shevlin came closest, poking a header back across goal from Kane just over the bar. In the dying minutes a shot from Kane was deflected inside the box and could've gone anywhere, but luckily for the home team fell to Neeson as Cliftonville ended Ballymena's 6 game unbeaten run.

Match report written by Philip McPeake

Pld W D L F A +/- Pts
1. Coleraine 17 13 3 1 38 14 24 42
2. Crusaders 16 11 3 2 48 16 32 36
3. Glenavon 16 11 3 2 45 19 26 36
4. Cliftonville 17 11 1 5 35 18 17 34
5. Linfield 16 11 0 5 36 16 20 33
6. Glentoran 17 7 4 6 20 22 -2 25
7. Ballymena United 17 6 3 8 26 35 -9 21
8. Dungannon Swifts 17 6 2 9 19 30 -11 20
9. Ards 17 4 1 12 16 35 -19 13
10. Warrenpoint Town 17 3 3 11 21 37 -16 12
11. Carrick Rangers 16 2 3 11 10 35 -25 9
12. Ballinamallard United 17 1 2 14 11 48 -37 5
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