Ballymena United 3 - 3 Glenavon

League Cup - Group Stage
Saturday, September 1st, 2007, 3:00 PM at Ballymena Showgrounds
Referee: Stephen Weatherall (Belfast)
Ballymena United  Glenavon

Mark Picking (30)
Davitt Walsh (38)
Aaron Callaghan (49)
Lewis Hamlin (5)
Lewis Hamlin (14)
Lewis Hamlin (pen.) (25)

Team Managers
Tommy Wright
Colin Malone

Starting Eleven
Paul Murphy
Aaron Callaghan
Albert Watson
Craig McClean
Simon Kelly
Aidan Watson
Garth Scates
Mark Picking
Stuart King
Davitt Walsh
Paul Brown
Tuda Murphy
Ian Wallace
Paul Carville
Johnny Cowan
Gavin McDonnell
Eamonn Murray
Ormon Okunaiya
John Douglas
Lewis Hamlin
Stephen Magennis
Barry Meehan

Gary Haveron
Lee Patrick
Stephen Lowry
Darren Fitzgerald
Randal Reid
Paul Walsh
Mick Keough
Colm Kearney
Ciaran McGuigan
Seamus McCabe

Stephen Lowry for Stuart King (26)
Randal Reid for Davitt Walsh (84)
Mick Keough for Eamonn Murray (46)
Colm Kearney for John Douglas (63)
Paul Walsh for Ormon Okunaiya (88)

Stephen Lowry (85)
Randal Reid (90)
John Douglas (15)
Gavin McDonnell (55)

Red Cards
None. None.
Appearances & Goals To Date
Paul Murphy (GK) 45 apps -
Simon Kelly 17 apps1 goal
Albert Watson 177 apps6 goals
Craig McClean 64 apps -
Aaron Callaghan 43 apps1 goal
Garth Scates 133 apps14 goals
Aidan Watson 64 apps3 goals
Stuart King 64 apps6 goals
Mark Picking 44 apps10 goals
Davitt Walsh 2 apps4 goals
Paul Brown 37 apps6 goals
Stephen Lowry (sub) 15 apps -
Randal Reid (sub) 20 apps4 goals

Starting Lineup
Youngest Player:Aidan Watson (21 years 18 days)
Oldest Player:Mark Picking (31 years 265 days)
Average Player Age:24 years 99 days
Domestic Players:9 (81.82 % of starting eleven)

Matchday Squad
Youngest Player:Stephen Lowry (20 years 327 days)
Oldest Player:Mark Picking (31 years 265 days)
Average Player Age:24 years 241 days
Domestic Players:14 (87.50 % of matchday squad)

TOMMY Wright's Ballymena United were seemingly out of the CIS Insurance League Cup on Saturday with only 25 minutes gone against Glenavon.

Defeat would have almost certainly ended Ballymena United's campaign to escape the group stage of the competition for the first time in three years.

However, after a catastrophic start the home side found themselves three goals behind after 25 minutes to a Glenavon side which the Braidmen had comfortably beaten only two weeks previously at Mourneview Park.

Manager Wright didn't hold back when speaking to the Sunday Life; "Going forward I thought we were superb but defensively in the first 25 minutes it looked like some of us had never defended in our lives."

The Sky Blues buoyed by their midweek demolition of Orangefield in the County Antrim Shield, looked to shore up the defence which has conceded seven goals in the three previous group games.

That mentality only lasted five minutes as former Larne striker Lewis Hamlin nipped in unmarked to head the ball home from close range to give Lurgan Blues the lead, when only minutes previously Davitt Walsh had crashed a shot against the crossbar.

On 14 minutes it was Hamlin again on target as he doubled the visitors lead. Stephen Magennis had broken down the right flank and cut the ball back to the unmarked Hamlin in the box, his initial snapshot was parried away by the knee of Paul Murphy - however the English striker knocked home the rebound for number two.

Simon Kelly nearly pulled one back for the Sky Blues with a long range drive, but worse was yet to come from the comical defensive performance of Ballymena United.

Stuart King failed to cope with the electric pace of Ormo Okunaiya and as the former Larne midfielder made a dart for the United goal, King ludicrisly decided to haul the Glenavon winger to the ground on 25 minutes, as Stephen Weatherall had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

The stunned United supporters could only watch in horror as Hamlin dispatched the penalty for his hat-trick as Glenavon went into an unbelievable 3-0 lead.

United boss Tommy Wright made a bold decision and hauled penalty culprit King, who had also been booked, off the pitch on 26 minutes and replaced him with Stephen Lowry.

Lowry's impact was almost immediate as he was fouled by Glenavon's Cayman international goalkeeper Tuda Murphy, and it was United who were awarded a penalty on the half hour. Garth Scates stepped up but fired a tame kick at the visiting 'keeper - fortunately Mark Picking reacted quickest and fired the rebound home to give Ballymena a glimmer of hope.

With seven minutes of the first half remaining, Mark Picking's cross was met with a superb bullet header from new loan signing Davitt Walsh who reduced the deficit to only one goal, with his fourth strike in two games.

The confidence was buzzing from the Sky Blues now, as they were in the ascendency against a shell-shocked Glenavon side.

Ballymena continued to press forward in search of an equaliser and their relentless attack was rewarded in the 49th minute when Mark Picking's cross was only cleared as far as Northern Ireland Under-21 defender, Aaron Callaghan, who had time to control and fire through a crowded box into the bottom corner. Callaghan's equaliser was his first competitive Ballymena goal in almost 50 first team appearances.

An amazing turnaround seemed complete when Stephen Weatherall awarded the third penalty of the game in United favour when Aidan Watson was fouled by Gavin McDonnell in he 55th minute. However, Mark Picking struck a penalty on par with Garth Scates' earlier effort, and Colin Malone's side managed to clear their lines.

It was constant United attack with Stephen Lowry and Paul Brown coming close, but the handling of Tuda Murphy was exceptional, especially in the air.

Substitute Randal Reid had United's best chance to win the tie with a late close-range header- but the Sky Blues had to settle for a point in which was an amazing comeback from three goals down.

Wright was dispondent,

"We should have won the game comfortably but you can't give teams at any standard of football a three-goal start. The three goals were shocking to say the least, the decision-making of certain people, the lack of communication and it was something we spoke about before the start.

"There's been a lot said here about players not wanting to play for the shirt or the club but they certainly showed a lot of character."

Match report written by Official Ballymena United website

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