Ballymena United 2
Cliftonville 1
League (NIFL Premiership)


Ballymena United
2 - 1
Cliftonville 

League (NIFL Premiership)
Tuesday, February 26th, 2019
Ballymena Showgrounds
Attendance: 1,111
7:45 PM Kick-off

Goalscorers
Cathair Friel (20)
Leroy Millar (72)
Rory Donnelly (79)

Team Managers
David Jeffrey
Paddy McLaughlin

Starting Eleven
1. Ross Glendinning
2. Tony Kane
5. Scot Whiteside
4. Jonathan Addis
21. Jim Ervin
11. Steven McCullough
23. Leroy Millar
20. Jude Winchester
17. Andrew McGrory
22. Adam Lecky
9. Cathair Friel
Richard Brush .1
Garry Breen .4
Niall Grace .5
Christopher Curran .7
Ryan Curran .9
Aaron Harkin .15
Liam Bagnall .16
Caoimhin McConnell .18
Joe Gormley .19
Conor McMenamin .24
Joe Gorman .32

Bench
31. Jordan Williamson
3. Conor Quigley
19. Kofi Balmer
12. William Faulkner
7. Shane McGinty
27. Jonathan McMurray
16. Matthew Shevlin
Brian Neeson 13.
Jaimie McGovern .2
Levi Ives .3
Stephen Garrett .10
Rory Donnelly .11
Ryan Catney .17
Aaron Donnelly .25

Substitutions
None. Rory Donnelly for Caoimhin McConnell (56)
Stephen Garrett for Aaron Harkin (79)

Cautions
Cathair Friel (90)
Garry Breen (14)
Niall Grace (52)

Red Cards
None. None.
Match Officials

Tony Clarke (Referee)
Stephen Donaldson & Kristian Hanna (Assistants)
Declan Hassan (Fourth Official)




Match Report


Ballymena United put recent disappointments behind them with a hard fought 2-1 win over Cliftonville at the Showgrounds on Tuesday night.

After the two defeats to Linfield in the capital it was back to home comforts for United and after a very quiet opening quarter of an hour, Leroy Millar had the game's first chance as he saw a header from a Steven McCullough free kick come back off the crossbar. Millar's close shave seemed to inject some life into both sides with Joe Gorman heading over at the back post in the visitor's first chance.

On 20 minutes referee Tony Clarke called play back for a Ballymena free kick, despite his initial advantage seeing Andy McGrory break through on goal, but the strange decision to bring play back worked in United's favour as they scored from the free kick. Tony Kane's ball in was only half dealt with, allowing Steven McCullough to find Cathair Friel, who broke the offside trap before finishing neatly into the bottom corner.

The goal was the start of a remainder of the half dominated by the Sky Blues. Scot Whiteside found Friel with a great long ball and the forward teed up Jude Winchester, but in a great position he skewed his shot wide. Minutes later Winchester turned provider, putting McGrory through again, but instead of shooting he tried to find Adam Lecky, causing the chance to break down as Richard Brush easily collected the ball.

The chances continued to come and go for United towards the end of the half with Kane firing just inches over from 20 yards after a good team move. An even better team move five minutes later saw McCullough, Kane, Winchester and McGrory all linking up, with the latter flashing a shot wide from the right hand side of the box.
The Reds had barely anything to show for their first half efforts. Despite seeing a fair bit of the ball the best opening they could muster up did see Conor McMenamin put the ball in the back of Ballymena's net, but it was rightfully chalked off for offside. A half controlled by the hosts ended 1-0, with United left to ponder over a host of missed chances.

As expected, Cliftonville carried more of a threat in the second half as the Braidmen were left hoping they wouldn't regret those first half misses. On 55 minutes Cliftonville captain Chris Curran charged forward with the ball from his own half before playing in Joe Gormley, but he was denied a shooting chance after Jim Ervin tracked him back before making an immense tackle. And minutes later the captain was at it again, getting in the way of a goalbound shot from McMenamin.

With 25 minutes left Ballymena came on strong again after a quiet spell. Winchester found Friel on the wing, with the striker making a run into the box before cutting the ball back to Winchester, but again he scuffed his effort wide.

On 71 minutes United moved 2-0 in front. A hanging free kick from Jonny Addis was cleared only as far as Kane on the edge of the box, and he headed the ball back in for Leroy Millar who took one touch to bring the ball under control before lifting it over Brush and into the back of the net.

However the two goal cushion only lasted two minutes as Cliftonville pulled a goal back. A corner from Aaron Harkin was met by sub Rory Donnelly at the back post who headed home past Ross Glendinning.

Harkin's goal would mean for a very nervy last 15 minutes and Chris Curran had a chance to equalise when he was able to dance his way past numerous sky blue shirts, only to fire over with his attempt.

Despite Ballymena having to defend for most of the game's conclusion, at the other end Brush made two fantastic saves inside a minute to keep his team in it. A cross dropped kindly for Winchester who chested the ball down before hitting it on the volley from 12 yards, but Brush did well to tip the ball round the post. However the 'keeper produced an even better stop when Ervin let fly from 25 yards. His shot nicked off a Cliftonville player, making it harder for Brush, but he got across to make a stunning one handed stop.

The final 5 minutes were all Cliftonville, with McMenamin coming closest to equalising with a low, curling effort on the edge of the box that drifted inches wide, but United held on for a huge three points to strengthen their grip on 2nd place in the league.

Match report written by Philip McPeake (www.ballymenaunitedfc.com)



Squad Statistics (as at February 26th, 2019)


2018-2019 All Time
Age
Ross Glendinning (GK)25 29 - 101 -
Scot Whiteside21 26 - 26 -
Steven McCullough24 344745
Jonathan Addis26 353353
Tony Kane31 31530946
Jim Ervin33 3112083
Jude Winchester25 315315
Andrew McGrory27 266266
Leroy Millar23 31812316
Cathair Friel25 331812358
Adam Lecky27 34133413



League Table (as at February 26th, 2019)


Pld W D L Pts
1. Linfield 30 22 5 3 71
2. BALLYMENA UTD 29 19 5 5 62
3. Crusaders 30 18 3 9 57
4. Glenavon 29 14 9 6 51
5. Coleraine 30 13 9 8 48
6. Cliftonville 29 14 3 12 45
7. Institute 29 10 5 14 35
8. Glentoran 30 9 7 14 34
9. Dungannon 30 8 9 13 33
10. Warrenpoint Town 30 7 7 16 28
11. Ards 30 4 5 21 17
12. Newry 30 4 5 21 17