2 - 2
League Cup (Round 2)
Aaron Stewart (68)
Tony Kane (107)
Eoin Bradley (pen.) (13)
Eoin Bradley (97)
2. Tony Kane
6. Aaron Stewart
Leroy Millar for Eoin Gillan (46)
Mark McCullagh for Peter Duffin (86)
Craig for McFerran (68)
Dooey for McClelland (68)
Dempsey for McGarry (74)
Stuart Addis (13)
Eddie Ferguson (Referee)
BALLYMENA United survived a major cup scare at the Showgrounds on Monday night, progressing to the third round on penalties after a 2-2 AET draw.
Manager Glenn Ferguson made eight changes from Saturday's win over Dungannon Swifts and it showed in the opening stages, as United appeared a little disjointed. An early run from winger Neil Lowry down the right gave Ballymoney full back Declan McGarry a scare, but this proved to be the exception rather than the norm as the away side soon found their feet and began to impress. Ballymena hadn't offered so much as a shot on target when Ballymoney took the lead. Goalkeeper Stuart Addis hauled down Eoin Bradley in the box to earn the away side a penalty, with Addis somewhat fortuitous to escape with only a yellow card. Bradley got back to his feet to take the spot kick himself and duly dispatched the ball beyond the despairing dive of the United goalkeeper to give the visitors a deserved lead.
Stuart Addis was having a difficult night, and almost gifted Ballymoney a second as indecision caused him to delay making a clearance inside the six yard box. This seemed to spark the home side into life who were almost level minutes later when Tony Kane's pinpoint cross was headed onto the crossbar from point blank range by striker Gary Liggett. Neil Lowry was next to threaten, he cut in from the left and unleashed a powerful shot with his right foot which Ballymoney goalkeeper Bryan Moore seemed pleased to tip over for a corner.
Ballymena had the best of the chances for the remainder of the first half, with Aaron Stewart heading just wide from Duffin's corner, before Eoin Gillan shot over from the edge of the box. This was to be Gillan's last involvement, as he was withdrawn at the interval in favour of debutant Leroy Millar.
Centre back David Munster was first to threaten for United in the second period, but he somehow managed to head the ball down and over the bar from inside the six yard box. At this point all of a Sky Blue persuasion began to wonder if it just wasn't to be their night. Ballymoney responded, and Declan McGarry was left pondering how on earth he hadn't doubled his side's advantage when he dragged his shot wide when seemingly primed to score.
At this point the match opened up, as Ballymena became ever more urgent to equalise. That equaliser finally arrived on 70 minutes. Aaron Stewart rose majestically to head home Peter Duffin's corner and put his side back on level terms. If anyone thought the home side would go on and dominate the game they were wrong, as the visitors soon responded. Gerald Gillan found himself in acres of space in the Ballymena penalty box but somehow fired wide when he could have wrapped the game up for the Championship 2 club.
There was still time for both sides to threaten. First Gary Liggett turned in the box but pulled his shot wide from all of six yards. In response, Conleath McCaughan fired just over the frame of Stuart Addis' goal in another scare for the home side. The final chance of normal time fell to Gary Thompson and what a chance it was, totally unmarked, the midfield man directed a free header wide from five yards to send the game into extra time.
For some reason Ballymena appeared to rest on their laurels during the opening period and were made to pay on 100 minutes when Eoin Bradley pounced on a lapse in concentration in the home side's defence to put his side back in front at a crucial stage. This finally sparked United into life, who were unlucky not to be back on level terms when a shot from Gary Liggett caused havoc in the Ballymoney penalty area, eventually the ball was cleared giving the visitors a slender advantage at the break.
The teams switched ends and began the second period of extra time where Ballymena at last started to dominate and created a plethora of chances in the process. Michael Ruddy, Gary Thompson and Gary Liggett were all guilty of demonstrating poor heading accuracy, as each found themselves unmarked from a corner but failed to hit the target on each occasion. Eventually it was left to Tony Kane to save the day, a trademark 20 yard free kick found the top corner to the palpable relief of everyone in the home stand.
Penalties ensued, as the crowd collectively held their breath. First up for Ballymena was Michael Ruddy, who coolly dispatched the ball past Bryan Moore. The impressive Eoin Bradley then found his spot kick saved by Stuart Addis to give them home side a one goal advantage. Then followed a raft of scored penalties as, in order for Ballymena, Gary Thompson, Tony Kane and Neil Lowry all found the back of net. Conleath McCaughan, Ciaran O'Kane and Mark Dempsey did likewise for Ballymoney meaning the pressure fell on the young shoulders of Aaron Stewart to send his side into the next round.
Painful memories of that fateful Irish Cup semi final against Portadown came flooding back, but 'Archie' banished those thoughts with a confident finish to send Ballymena United into the hat for the next round. The Sky Blues are back in action this Friday evening (7.45pm) against Ards at Dixon Park, Ballyclare, where no doubt a much more experienced United side will take to the field in the quest for three important league points.
Match report written by Jordan Miller
|Stuart Addis (GK)||34||1||-||25||-|
|Mark McCullagh (sub)||26||3||-||10||-|
|Leroy Millar (sub)||17||1||-||1||-|
* - Table split into two divisions of six.