3 - 2
League (Irish League)
Jack Mahood (8)
Jack Mahood (44) (pen.)
Stanley Mahood (65)
Hugh Gilmore (25)
James McCambridge (40)
A. Fogg (Bolton) (Referee)
In front of 12,000 spectators who paid 'gate' money amounting to £312, Ballymena gave Celtic a rare shaking up on Saturday at Celtic Park, and only misfortune robbed them of the fruits of their labours.
Through injuries caused to Shiels and Mitchell by Walker, of Glentoran, on the previous Wednesday, Ballymena were deprived of their services, their places being taken by Gilmore and Morrow. It was a serious blow to Ballymena, and cost them dearly, for there is a general agreement of opinion that with their inclusion in the team Ballymena would have swept the boards. Weakened as the team was, however, they played so well that they had Celtic thoroughly scared, especially when the Celts were a goal down in the first half. Only by a debatable penalty and a very much disputed goal in the second half were Celtic were able to maintain their unbeaten League record, which shows just how good a team Ballymena is, and that Celtic are not as infallible as we thought.
The match started under ideal conditions with Celtic, who had the luck of the toss, defending the city goal. Right at the start the fast end-to-end rushes stirred the enthusiasm of the crowd. Gough saved from Gallagher, and Diffen gathered a shot from Gilmore. The Light Blues then went through the Celtic defence like a whirlwind, and only a last minute effort by Fulton kept them out.
Eight minutes from the start Celtic opened the scoring, Gallagher crossing in for Curran to pass on to Jack Mahood, who tapped the ball over the line just out of Gough's reach. Ballymena began a series of counter attacks which put a terrific strain on the Celtic defence who, thoroughly beaten time and again must have heaved sighs of relief when Gilmore failed so dismally and in front of a gaping goal skied the ball over the bar.
It was an unforgivable error. Always in the picture McCambridge forced a corner, and later flashed in a shot which was charged down, Morrow sending over on the rebound. In the next minute Morrow had another chance to make a name for himself when J. Reid placed well from a free, but he suffered from over-eagerness and failed at the crucial moment. For yet a third time the same player missed when he put over the bar, following a free. Thus he and Gilmore both failed to embrace golden opportunities. It was a case of the Ballymena spectators crying "Oh, for a Shiels."
Ballymena sustained their attack for along time, and had the Celtic backs guessing. Eventually the homesters broke away, and after a fine run, Gallagher whizzed a grand shot just over the bar. McNinch conceded a corner, but afterwards did some good work in foiling the energetic J. Mahood. The battle of wits between these players was always enjoyed by the crowd, but McNinch kept his end up well and seldom gave the little outside left the opportunity he was looking for. Curran was working for an opening when McDiarmid spoiled his chances, and then Ballymena renewed the attack, McCambridge sending out to Shaw, who overcame all opposition and placed the ball in front of goal, where McCambridge tapped to Hugh Gilmore for the latter to land the ball in the corner of the net for the equaliser after 25 minutes' play.
The Celts were soon in the Ballymena end again, and Ferris shot over. In a flash the venue had changed again, and Diffen was obliged to kick to touch in order to save his charge. Celtic bore down on the Ballymena goal, where Gough stopped a rasper from Gallagher, a shot which would have beaten a less capable goalie. After Shaw had essayed an attempt which Diffen saved. McNinch let in J. Mahood, but the latter shot yards wide.
Gilmore was injured in the next attack by the Light Blues, and when he was still receiving attention, Shaw took a corner and James McCambridge put Ballymena ahead. At this stage it looked as if the 'Seven Towers' men were going to win against the odds, so steady was their going, but soon there was an outburst of Celtic applause when the referee gave a penalty against McDiarmid for what he regarded as obstruction. The Celtic players were on tenterhooks. There they stood on the penalty line with no one to volunteer to take the kick, no one to shoulder the responsibility. At length Jack Mahood stepped forward and sent the ball into the corner of the net, a feat which called forth wild cheers from the unreserved area, which was choked with Celtic supporters. Just before the interval Ballymena attacked again, and Diffen was injured, but soon recovered.
In the opening minutes of the second half Celtic were the aggressors, and Gough handled early on. A corner to Ballymena gave Morrow a chance, and he drove in hard, but the ball came out again from among a ruck of players, and Clarke grazed the bar with a first-timer. Curran and one of the Mahoods were going dangerously when McNinch pulled them up short and sent the Ballymena forwards racing for goal. A spell of pressure by the Light Blues was followed by McDiarmid conceding a corner, but McCambridge cleared. Just afterwards John Reid was injured and the game was stopped for a few minutes until he received attention. A free to the Celts saw the ball light well in front of goal, but 'hands' against one of the themselves spoiled their chances. Some feeling crept into the game in this half, and fouls were frequent, Celtic being the more glaring offenders.
Then came the much debated goal which gave Celtic the points. Gough had stopped a shot from Stanley Mahood, when he failed to hold, and grounded the ball, then kicking clear, and there was a general surprise when the referee, after a moment's hesitation, pointed to the centre of the field. The Ballymena captain, and Gough, as well as the Ballymena supporters, hotly disputed the decision, but the referee was adamant. There was some slackness in Ballymena's play after this, with the result that Celtic did most of the attacking for a time.
Then the Light Blues found their feet again, and Shaw sent across for Gilmroe to beat Ferguson only to miss by inches. A corner to Celtic was followed by one to Ballymena, but the defences held out. Celtic goal had, after this, a narrow escape when McCambridge shot in along drive, and it took Diffen all his time to save the swerving shot. The home goalie had to save another likely one from McCambridge, but he got it away. In the closing stages McNinch gave away a corner, and in the last minute Ballymena were almost through when Ferguson saved the situation by sending behind.
Match report written by Ballymena Observer (7 December 1928)
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