5 - 1
League (Irish League)
Sam McAdam (9)
Sam McAdam (21)
Sam McAdam (86)
A. Kirby (Preston) (Referee)
Saturday was a black day for Ballymena. Not since their entrance into the football world, wince when they have done more than tolerably well, have they suffered such a crushing defeat as they received at at the hands of Distillery at Grosvenor Park.
After defeating Distillery by 5-3 at the Showgrounds on 6th October, in what was one of the best matches of the season, we expected them to maintain their reputation away from home and at least make a draw of it, but it was Distillery's day out, and all through the game the Whites shaped like winners, adapting their play to the ground and scoring a glut of goals. Compared with their former showing, Ballymena's form was poor; nevertheless they were not so much of of the game as the score of 5-1 against them would lead one to imagine. The game was fought on a mud-covered pitch before a large attendance.
The game opened spiritedly, and from the start play was very fast in spite of the muddy surface. Neither side could claim a monoply in the opening minutes, the venue changing rapidly and both goalies being called into action. The Distillery forwards were almost through when McNinch robbed his opponents easily and sent the visitors flying to the other end, where Morrow turned in a neat shot which was charged down, and then sent in as second which met with the same fat.
After further Ballymena pressure the Distillery forwards worked up a pretty movement on the right wing, Finney firing across a shot which Gough put over the bar. Then Gough made a mistake which cost Ballymena a goal. He had lifted the ball almost from McAdams' toe, and instead of kicking clear he threw it out a few yards for Sam McAdam to regain possession and land it safely in the net before the goalie had sufficient time to recover. It was a well-grasped opportunity which should never have occurred.
Distillery continued to force the pace and had the best of the argument, Ballymena making only occasional raids, in which the Distillery backs proved masters of the situation. The home forwards moved like a machine, and many a time only Gough stood between them and further victory. Shiels and Morrow opened up the play for Ballymena, but too close football allowed Burnison to break up the attacks.
Distillery's second goal came when Finney fired in another shot from the wing and Gough came out to meet it, but Sam McAdam was on him just as he got at the ball and bundled it into the net for the second. Things were looking more than black for Ballymena at this stage, but they never threw in the sponge, and might have a goal to their credit had Shiels played to the whistle instead of hesitating to see whether he was going to be pulled up for offside. It was a fatal mistake which he repeated more than once.
Another time he tried to score through an array of opponents when a touch out to Shaw might have done the trick, but he seemed flustered and ran round in an arc until overcome by force of numbers. Later, he did get past the defence, but after running right up to goal, shot straight into Palmer's arms, when a tip to either side would have meant all the difference. These were unusual failings in one whose reputation stands high as a goalscorer.
Dalrymple went off for a few minutes to get an injury attended to, and during this period Ballymena again carried the play to the home end where Shiels headed past. With Dalrymple back in the ranks Distillery continued on the defensive, and Ballymena had a grand opening when Clarke dropped the ball well into centre, but McCambridge's finishing effort sent it ballooning over the bar.
Then the White's went away again and ended a fast attack by Billy Blair scoring their third goal. With their backs to the wall now Ballymena showed a glimpse of their old-time form and soon forced a corner, but Palmer saved. In the next minute Ballymena were again in the home goal area, where, after some good work for position, James McCambridge left Palmer no chance with a strong drive.
Hopes were held of Ballymena making a recovery in the second half, but it may as well be stated that they were very lean. Unlike Distillery, they were not adapting their play to suit the ground. They continued playing close football, which was far from being a paying proposition under the circumstances. Whereas the Distillery halves slung the ball out to the wings and made their attacks far more dangerous. For a time at the beginning of the second half, however, Ballymena made an effort to open up the play, and the result was that they benefited to a great extent; but although they were dangerous for a period they could not cap their efforts with goals, the inside forwards being just fraction of a second too late when the wing men did get the ball across.
Clarke had a shot all on his own which Palmer pushed over for a corner. Considerable feeling developed and the whistle went at intervals for fouls against Distillery. Morrow and Shiels coming in for the brunt of the unfair tactics. Shiels missed another great chance to score when he received from Clarke and after being all opposition led the ball right up to goal and struck Palmer with the shot, the goalie scrambling the ball away. Ballymena were now having a greater share of the play, simply because they banged the ball about a bit more than formerly. Another free kick and a corner came their way, but they left the score unchanged.
Then McNinch took another free and sent in a fast ground shot which Palmer had to stretch himself at to save. A minute later Morrow and Shiels combined effectively, and the former ended in hitting the side net from a couple of yards out. At length Distilery again got a spurt on, and Finney had a glorious opening but shot past. Then at the other end McCambridge just missed to get his boot at a pass from Morrow. Finney scored Distillery's fourth goal and later Sam McAdam accepted a beautiful centre and scored with a first time effort. The game was soon over, and Distillery's supporters sent up a conquering cheer as their favourites left the field.
Match report written by Ballymena Observer (6 January 1929)
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