2 - 2
League (Irish League)
Fred Roberts (12)
Fred Roberts (88)
James Gilmour (60)
James Gilmour (81)
W. McClean (Belfast) (Referee)
What has been acclaimed on all sides as the best match of the season was seen at the Oval on Saturday when Ballymena met Glentoran, the league leaders, in a sterling contest that was full of thrills up to the last minute.
It was a clash of giants, Glentoran fighting desperately to preserve their undefeated home record, and Ballymena straining every nerve and sinew to make them surrender the points. And what a struggle it was!
We have seen nothing comparable to it since last Boxing Day, when Ballymena gave what was considered to be absolutely the finest display of football ever seen in Ireland for a decade. But the fly in the ointment is what wheras on the former occasion Ballymena thoroughly trounced Linfield, their opponents, on Saturday they were only able to divide the points.
At the interval the 'Glens' led by the only goal scored in the first half. Ballymena ought to have been on level terms by then, as they received a penalty, but McCandless failed to score with the spot kick.
However, in the second half Gilmour levelled up the score, and later he gave Ballymena the lead, which they held until a few minutes from the end. Just as the crowd was beginning to file out of the exits McNinch made a hefty clearance, sending the ball over the grandstand, thinking, no doubt, that he was helping the team to hold what they had.
But an alert Glentoran official rushed to the pavillion and secured a new ball, which he threw to McClure for the throw-in. Immediately afterwards it was kicked high in the air and dropped in front of Ballymena's goal. McKean ran out to get it but it bounced quickly out of his reach and Roberts nodded it into the net.
The Glentoran supporters rose like one man and chered themselves hoarse. It was a thrilling end to a great match, but it was disappointing to Ballymena who had fought manfully and so well, to have to cup of victory dashed from their lips at the last moment.
Glentoran were the first to carry play outside the circle, and bearing down on Ballymena's goal in the first half-minute they early tested the defence, Burke putting in a high ball, which McNinch deflected for a corner.
McKean was soon in aciton, and after he had ent up field from a goal kick Nelson trapped the ball but was dispossessed, and Geary flashed in a first-timer which McKean turned round the post for a corner, from which the Ballymena goalie made a particularly fine save.
Then Ballymena got going, Stewart punting the ball well up to Murphy, who circumvented McMeekin and put in a ground shot with terrific sting behind it, Livingstone throwing himself at the ball and just managing to scrape it away in time.
Such lively incidents so early in the match roused the enthusiasm of the big crowd, who settled down to enjoy a game that proved to be crammed with thrills. A free against McCandless let Glentorannin again, but McKean, who was playing confidently, saved from Roberts.
Away went the Light Blues again, Dalrymple getting the ball across for Gilmour to head over. A feature of the match was the rapdity with which the venue changed from end to end, both goals coming under fire alternatively. With the sun in their eyes the Ballymena backs were playing under handicap, but both of them were standing up firmly to a set of forwards who shot on every possible occasion.
McCandless robbed Roberts nicely when a break through would have spelled disaster, and in the next minute Stewart hemmed in Burke so that he could not get in his centre, but was able to force a corner.
Already Cassidy was proving himself the guiding force in the Ballymena attacks. He was so nimble and tricky, doing unexpected things at the right moment, that the combined forces of McClure and Gibson were of little avail.
A great shot from his foot was going straight for goal when an opponent got in the way of the ball. This was a thing that happened on countless occasions when the Ballymena forwards were on the mark, and it was more good luck than good play that saved the Glentoran goal.
With about twelve minutes gone Burke cut in, and dropped the ball in front o the Ballymena goal, and Fred Roberts headed home the opening point. Ballymena redoubled their efforts, if that were possible, and Murphy led the Glentoran defence a merry dance but was beaten in the end by the speed of the ball.
In a race for possession McClements was successful and lobbed the ball up for Roberts to head high over the bar. Then we saw what was the most delightful bit of play so far when Cassidy and Dalrymple co-operated in a movement in which they worked the ball in clockwork fashion. Dalrymple ended this scintillating display by giving Livingstone a hot handful.
This was followed by an even more sparkling movement by Cassidy, Gilmour and Dalrymple, a movement which was, perhaps, the finest of the whole match, and again Dalrymple shot straight and hard for goal, but Livingstone was equally safe.
At the moment Ballymena were giving one of their prettiest displays. So good was it that even the Glentoran supporters had to join in the chorus of admiration. Murphy was the next man to shine, connecting with a well timed pass from Cassidy and volleying in a shot which Livingstone fisted round the post for a corner.
From Murphy's flag-kick Gilmour headed in, but the goalie was ready again. Another corner to Ballymena left the score unchanged.
Following a spell of work Glentoran made ground and McKeen saved well from a free kick. But Ballymena were not on the defensive for long. Off they went once more and forced yet another corner, and afterwards Howard and Murphy had a nice passing bout, as a result of which Murphy brought the goalie into action again.
Fouls of a minor nature were perpetrated by both teams and had the effect of breaking up some promising attacks. Ballymena again showed the stuff of which they are made when Cassidy, Gilmour and Murphy dizzied the defence by an out-and-in movement, but when Cassidy got the ball on its return with his head and directed it to Murphy, who forced an abortive corner.
At the opposite end McKean brought off a brilliant save, and when in the act of clearing he was charged by Roberts and had to retire for a few minutes, Howard deputising in goal.
Then came Ballymena's best chance to equalise when Murphy, after outwitting three opponents, passed to Cassidy, who was tripped inside the penalty area and a spot kick was awarded. McCandless was entrusted with the task, but his effort was weak, Livingstone saving an easy shot.
Another golden opportunity to level the score was missed early in the second half. Stewart initiated the movement placing to Howard, who crossed the ball out to Dalrymple, and when the winger got it over well Howard drove it over the bar when facing a tenantless goal.Livingstone having run out previously to this.
In the next Ballymena attack McMeekin miskicked bu made a good recovery, and then the visitors came back and Murphy shot the ball across goal but Dalrymple could not get up to it in time.
Stewart short-passed to McCandless, thus allowing Burke away on a clear field, but McKean dealt magnificently with the shot, putting it over the bar for a corner. Immediately afterwards he saved brilliantly from Callaghan, and on the heels of this came a rasper from Geary, but again McKean rose to the occasion, bringing off a save that would have done credit to Elisha Scott.
The game was now as fast and as interesting as ever. In the home defence McNinch was distinguishing himself on every occasion which called for his intervention. No matter what player he came up against the result was just the same - McNinch came out on top.
Fifteen minutes after the resumption McNinch took a free kick, and at the other end Gibson miskicked and Dalrymple slung the ball across for James Gilmour to head through the equaliser.
Now commenced a terrific struggle for the supremacy, with Ballymena top-dog for a time. Then Glentoran came into the picture and Geary fired in a shot which McKean stopped admirably. Had Gilmour steadied himself for the fraction of a second when he was put in possession immediately in front of the Glentoran goal he might have put Ballymena ahead, but in the excitement of the moment he walloped the ball over the bar.
However, James Gilmour made amends a little later when from Murphy's corner kick he headed through the leading goal.
Ballymena's supporters were now in the seventh heaven of delight. Just imagine beating Glentoran on their own ground! Within a few minutes the match would be ended, and even the Glentoran supporters had become resigned to the loss of the points.
But then an unfortunate thing happened. McNinch cleared the ball well over the grandstand, and with only two minutes more to go a new ball was rushed to the field. Callaghan booted it across the field high in the air and it bounced in front of the Ballymena goal.
McKean came out to get it, but misjudged the bounce of the new ball with the result that Roberts jumped to it and nodded it through an open goal. Thus ended a match will be long remembered.
Match report written by Ballymena Observer (26 December 1930)
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