Ballymena United 0
Linfield 1
League (NIFL Premiership)

Ballymena United
0 - 1

League (NIFL Premiership)
Friday, August 18th, 2023
Ballymena Showgrounds
Attendance: 2,028
7:45 PM Kick-off

None. Chris McKee (83)

Team Managers
Jim Ervin
David Healy

Starting Eleven
1. Sean O'Neill
20. TJ Murray
5. Scot Whiteside
11. Steven McCullough
8. Sean Graham
2. Kym Nelson
14. John McGuigan
30. Michael Place
16. Fraser Taylor
10. Ryan Waide
27. Jonathan McMurray
Chris Johns .1
Daniel Finlayson .2
Chris Shields .5
Jack Scott .6
Kirk Millar .7
Kyle McClean .8
Joel Cooper .9
Ben Hall .15
Matthew Clarke .16
Chris McKee .17
John Robertson .33

26. Sam Johnston
22. Caleb Crawford
24. Jordan McMullan
21. Lewis Tennant
18. Jordan Gibson
15. Fiontan O'Boyle
David Walsh .51
Michael Newberry .4
Darragh McBrien .12
Jamie Mulgrew .22
Rhys Annett .36
Ryan McKay .37
Liam McStravick .58

Fiontan O'Boyle for John McGuigan (82)
Jordan Gibson for Ryan Waide (82)
Lewis Tennant for TJ Murray (89)
Darragh McBrien for John Robertson (72)
Jamie Mulgrew for Joel Coopier (86)

Kym Nelson (35)
John McGuigan (40)
Michael Place (53)
Steven McCullough (60)
Sean Graham (73)
Jonathan McMurray (87)
Chris Shields (65)

Red Cards
None. None.
Match Officials

Jamie Robinson (Referee)
Ryan Kelsey & Ken Ross (Assistants)
Mark Dillon (Fourth Official)

Match Report

A late Chris McKee goal was enough to condemn a gutsy Ballymena United to a 1-0 defeat to Linfield at a wet and windy Showgrounds on Friday evening.

After a 3-0 defeat to Larne at Inver Park during the week, Jim Ervin made two changes for the visit of the Blues, as TJ Murray made a first start in for Jordan McMullan, whilst Johnny McMurray replaced Jordan Gibson.

The game got underway in treacherous wind and rain thanks to Storm Betty, which made it tough all night for either team to find a rhythm, but inside the opening minute Linfield almost led. Joel Cooper found John Robertson in space inside the box, but his shot across goal was dragged just inches wide of the far post. After that worrying start, United settled reasonably well and tested Chris Johns for the first time thirteen minutes in, but McMurray's effort off a corner was easily held.

With still nothing much to split the teams and the weather continue to hamper, both sides had their best chances within five minutes of each other, midway through the half. First, a delightful chipped through ball from Jack Scott found Chris McKee to send the striker through one on one with Sean O'Neill, but with the goal gaping, McKee struck the base of the post. Minutes later, Sean Graham embarked on a dangerous run forward and after getting the better of Chris Shields on halfway he floated a ball to Murray, whose first-time touch and then effort were both more than tidy, and forced John's into a good save.

The remainder of the half played out without many chances, with Linfield being restricted to little thanks to a solid shape from the Braidmen, and in particular quality defending time and time again from Scot Whiteside and Kym Nelson. Late on Ben Hall headed a corner well over, but that was it for chances, as a more than pleasing half from Ballymena saw them go into the break level.

It was the visitors who started the second half on the front foot and gave the hosts some cause for concern. A three on two attack looked like it would give United some real problems, only for Scott's through ball for Robertson to be cut out wonderfully by Whiteside, before Cooper danced his way into the box, only to fire wide.

The Sky Blues began building their way into the half and on fifty-three minutes they almost went ahead. Ryan Waide did exceptionally well down the left-hand side to beat a couple before firing an inviting cross in. It was just missed by Fraser Taylor, who had a fantastic second half, but it fell to Murray, whose bending shot was headed for the bottom corner the second it left his boot, only for Shields to provide a super last-ditch block.

Just after the hour mark, with United still defending and closing down with real vigour, the travelling fans thought they'd gone ahead not once, but twice. First, a thunderous strike from Kyle McClean smacked the underside of the crossbar, before bouncing off the line and back up onto the bar again, and though it looked a tight one, it was judged not to have crossed the line at any time. Robertson then tapped home the rebound, but celebrations in the away end were cut short when the flag went up for offside.

Following those chances came twenty minutes of little action, with United asked to do more defending, but continuing to do so with the same quality shown all game, until the eighty-third minute, when the Blues found a winner. Shields picked the ball up on halfway and surged forward until he found Chris McKee inside the box, and he set himself onto his right foot before drilling the ball across goal and into the bottom corner.

For all of United's fight, good play and defending all night, getting the ball forward and creating chances remains a real difficulty, which meant they could find nothing late on, as Linfield comfortably held on for a narrow win, with a much-improved Ballymena still ultimately pointless to start the season.

Match report written by Philip McPeake (

Squad Statistics (as at August 18th, 2023)

2023-2024 All Time
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 4 - 67 -
Scot Whiteside26 4 - 1021
TJ Murray28 3 - 3 -
Steven McCullough28 4 - 2138
Fraser Taylor20 2 - 2 -
Kym Nelson28 4 - 595
John McGuigan29 4 - 4 -
Sean Graham22 4 - 753
Michael Place25 4 - 646
Ryan Waide23 4112016
Jonathan McMurray28 4 - 10232
Lewis Tennant (sub)18 2 - 3 -
Jordan Gibson (sub)28 3 - 464
Fiontan O'Boyle (sub)18 4 - 4 -

League Table (as at August 18th, 2023)

Pld W D L Pts
1. Linfield 3 3 0 0 9
2. Larne 3 2 1 0 7
3. Cliftonville 2 2 0 0 6
4. Crusaders 2 2 0 0 6
5. Glentoran 3 2 0 1 6
6. Coleraine 3 2 0 1 6
7. Loughgall 3 1 0 2 3
8. Carrick 2 1 0 1 3
9. Newry 3 1 0 2 3
10. Dungannon 3 0 1 2 1
11. Glenavon 3 0 0 3 0
12. BALLYMENA 4 0 0 4 0