Ballymena United 0
Cliftonville 2
League (NIFL Premiership)

Ballymena United
0 - 2

League (NIFL Premiership)
Saturday, September 23rd, 2023
Ballymena Showgrounds
Attendance: 1,445
3:00 PM Kick-off

None. Ben Wilson (19)
Ben Wilson (74)

Team Managers
Jim Ervin
Jim Magilton

Starting Eleven
1. Sean O'Neill
6. Colin Coates
11. Steven McCullough
5. Scot Whiteside
28. Dylan Boyle
17. Andrew McGrory
14. John McGuigan
2. Kym Nelson
16. Fraser Taylor
7. Alex Gawne
37. Isaac Westendorf
David Odumosu .23
Sean Stewart .3
Jonathan Addis. 4
Christopher Gallagher .6
Rory Hale .8
Kris Lowe .13
Ronan Doherty .17
Sam Ashford .20
Odhran Casey .22
Luke Turner .24
Ben Wilson .27

26. Sam Johnston
3. Corrie Burns
30. Michael Place
21. Lewis Tennant
19. Marc Walsh
27. Jonathan McMurray
15. Fiontan O'Boyle
Nathan Gartside .1
Connor Pepper .2
Luke Kenny .5
Christopher Curran .7
Joe Gormley .19
Shea Kearney .26
Jack Berry .29

Michael Place for John McGuigan (62)
Jonathan McMurray for Alex Gawne (73)
Fiontan O'Boyle for Andrew McGrory (84)
Connor Pepper for Kris Lowe (70)
Christopher Curran for Rory Hale (77)
Joe Gormley for Ben Wilson (77)

None. Christopher Gallagher (52)

Red Cards
None. None.
Match Officials

Shane Andrews (Referee)
John Doherty & Shane Geary (Assistants)
Christopher Morrison (Fourth Official)

Match Report

A DOUBLE from Ben Wilson was enough to condemn Ballymena United to yet another league defeat as they fell to a 2-0 loss to Cliftonville on Saturday afternoon.

Following last Saturday's second half collapse in the defeat to Loughgall, Jim Ervin made three changes for the visit of the Reds, including a debut for recent acquisition Dylan Boyle in the heart of midfield.

Given United's extremely poor start to the season and Cliftonville no doubt being in high spirits after a big win in the North Belfast derby on Monday, another difficult day was on the cards, but the hosts started well, though again without creating much.

Despite that good start, the visitors carried a threat and after Sean O'Neill had stopped an attempted Ben Wilson lob, all of United's promising early work was undone when they fell behind nineteen minutes in. Boyle's misplaced pass in his own half was pounced on by Ronan Doherty and two passes later the ball was in the back of the net as he found Rory Hale, who in turn found Ben Wilson, and the inform forwards drilled effort was out of the reach of Sean O'Neill.

Ballymena had a chance to level almost straight away when Isaac Westendorf, by far the day's brightest spark, won the ball back and drove into the box, but his shot was straight at David Odumosu.

After Alex Gawne took everyone by surprise with a wicked shot from well out that didn't fly too far wide, Cliftonville should've had a second. Poor play from Andrew McGrory saw him lose the ball outside his own box, allowing Wilson to be played in, and when surprisingly no flag went up for offside, he only had O'Neill to beat, but the 'keeper made an exceptional stop.

The next chance came the Braidmen's way when Fraser Taylor's quick feet gave him the space to shoot, but his effort was blocked by Odhran Casey, before the Belfast side ended the half the strongest. Wilson was presented with another chance, his fourth of the half, but sent a tame effort O'Neill's way, before the hosts dodged a bullet when Sean Stewart's cross was met by the unmarked Sam Ashford who timed his run perfectly, but he put it wide at close range.

Despite being behind, it had been a much-improved Ballymena from last week, certainly in the opening two thirds of the pitch anyway, keeping them in it for the second half. The second period took a while to get going, but when the first real chance finally came twelve minutes in, unsurprisingly it fell to Wilson. One on one again, Wilson dinked the ball over O'Neill, who may have got a touch on it to take the pace away, and on the line, Colin Coates got back to just about hook the ball off the line.

More half chances came for the Reds as Chris Gallagher and Wilson both fired wide, before Westendorf looked set to burst clear on goal for United, only for a perfect last-ditch tackle from Jonny Addis to deny him the chance. However, two minutes later Westendorf dazzled as he left Addis for dead twice in a super solo run, but as he went to pull the trigger and surely level, a stunning goal saving tackle from Gallagher put the ball behind for a corner.

Though still struggling to really trouble Cliftonville unless Westendorf was involved, the Sky Blues' tails were up until sixteen minutes from time when Wilson struck again to take the lead out of the balloon and condemn Ervin's men to an eighth defeat in nine league games. It was like watching a replay of the opener as Doherty picked up on slack United play in their own half, and he again found Hale, who again slipped a ball through for Ben Wilson, and he got to it just before Coates did to poke the ball past O'Neill.

That was really it in terms of a contest with next to nothing happening in the final fifteen minutes as the game rather drifted away. It was better from Ballymena in a few aspects and perhaps something to build on, but the lack of any threat at all in the final third remains a situation of huge concern, as a hugely disappointing and worrying run of form continues.

Match report written by Philip McPeake (

Squad Statistics (as at September 23rd, 2023)

2023-2024 All Time
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 10 - 73 -
Colin Coates37 7373
Steven McCullough29 9 - 2188
Scot Whiteside26 10 - 1081
Dylan Boyle21 1 - 1 -
Andrew McGrory31 3 - 14425
John McGuigan30 9 - 9 -
Kym Nelson28 10 - 655
Fraser Taylor20 8 - 8 -
Alex Gawne22 6 - 6 -
Isaac Westendorf22 4242
Michael Place (sub)25 8 - 686
Fiontan O'Boyle (sub)19 8 - 8 -
Jonathan McMurray (sub)29 9110733

League Table (as at September 23rd, 2023)

Pld W D L Pts
1. Linfield 8 6 1 1 19
2. Larne 8 5 3 0 18
3. Crusaders 8 5 2 1 17
4. Glentoran 9 5 2 2 17
5. Cliftonville 8 5 1 2 16
6. Coleraine 8 4 2 2 14
7. Loughgall 8 3 2 3 11
8. Dungannon 9 1 4 4 7
9. Glenavon 9 2 1 6 7
10. Newry 9 2 1 6 7
11. Carrick 9 2 1 6 7
12. BALLYMENA 9 1 0 8 3