Dungannon Swifts 0
Ballymena United 1
League (NIFL Premiership)


0 - 1

Ballymena United

League (NIFL Premiership)
Saturday, September 30th, 2023
Stangmore Park
Attendance: 454
3:00 PM Kick-off

None. Noah Stewart (87)

Team Managers
Rodney McAree Jim Ervin

Starting Eleven
18. Conor Mitchell
2. Ethan McGee
4. Dean Curry
5. Caolan Marron
7. Niall Owens
9. Ethan Devine
10. Kealan Dillon
14. Adam Glenny
19. Thomas Maguire
20. Matthew Lusty
34. Gael Bigirimana
Sean O'Neill .1
Corrie Burns .3
Colin Coates .6
Steven McCullough .11
Scot Whiteside .5
Dylan Boyle .28
John McGuigan .14
Kym Nelson .2
Donal Rocks .4
Fraser Taylor .16
Jonathan McMurray .27

1. Declan Dunne
3. John Scott
8. James Knowles
12. Steven Scott
15. Ben Gallagher
24. Andrew Whiteside
50. Tomas Galvin
Sam Johnston .26
TJ Murray .20
Michael Place .30
Lewis Tennant .21
Alex Gawne .7
Fiontan O'Boyle .15
Noah Stewart .33

Ben Gallagher for Niall Owens (29)
Tomas Galvin for Ethan Devine (70)
James Knowles for Gael Bigirimana (84)
Andrew Whiteside for Kealan Dillon (84)
Alex Gawne for John McGuigan (72)
Noah Stewart for Jonathan McMurray (79)
Fiontan O'Boyle for Donal Rocks (90)
Lewis Tennant for Fraser Taylor (90)

Gael Bigirimana (50)
Ethan McGee (78)
Colin Coates (78)
Scot Whiteside (83)

Red Cards
None. None.

Match Officials

Andrew Davey (Referee)
Paul Robinson & David Burns (Assistants)
Jamie Robinson (Fourth Official)

Match Report

A late debut strike from teenager Noah Stewart and heroics from Sean O'Neill were enough to give Ballymena United a second win of the season with a 1-0 victory over Dungannon Swifts at Stangmore Park on Saturday afternoon.

Following another defeat a week ago against Cliftonville, Jim Ervin made three changes for the trip to Mid Ulster, including a return for Donal Rocks who sat out against his parent club.

At an extremely damp Stangmore Park, it was the hosts who dominated the first half for large parts. Early on, Sean O'Neill made the first of what felt like fifty saves when he thwarted an Ethan Devine header, before he then batted away a stinging Kealan Dillon free kick.

In between Swifts chances, Ballymena almost took advantage on a breakaway move when John McGuigan slipped in Rocks, but the midfielder probably should've shot instead of trying to square the ball to Jonathan McMurray and the chance went.

As the game ticked over twenty minutes, Rodney McAree's side kicked things up a gear as the visitors had to stem an array of attacks. First, Thomas Maguire had Ballymena worried when he was played in by Matty Lusty from a Ballymena corner, but after bearing down on goal he struck inches wide. Minutes later Niall Owens went down the left and fizzed a low ball across goal for Devine, but he was denied by a stunning O'Neill save, and from the corner O'Neill was at it again to stop Adam Glenny.

On thirty-six minutes it looked like Dungannon would finally move ahead when Devine's attempted bicycle was blocked by a raised hand of Scot Whiteside just inside the box, and Andrew Davey duly pointed to the spot. Up stepped Dillon, but he drew a blank as his low effort was wonderfully tipped round the post by O'Neill once more.

Ballymena hadn't been that poor, but had just struggled to see much of the ball, but they ended the half strongly inside the final five minutes. Corrie Burns drove forward from right back and put McMurray in for a chance, but Conor Mitchell saved at the near post. Steven McCullough took the resulting corner and it almost went straight in, only for Mitchell to scramble it off the line, before the Braidmen failed to turn the ball home in pinball that followed.

Before the whistle there was still time for chances at either end in what had been a half littered with opportunities. At one end, Dylan Boyle did well to win the ball back and play in Rocks, who should've done better as he produced a save from Mitchell, and at the other end Dillon had a drilled shot yet again kept out by O'Neill, as a decent half in awful conditions somehow ended goalless.

After taking a fifteen-minute hiatus during half-time, the non-stop rain returned in time for the second half, which predictably started with an O'Neill save. A corner fell to Ethan McGee at the back post and his strong strike was parried away by the 'keeper, before McGuigan cleared any further jeopardy. Seconds later came another stop, this time to deny Lusty, but after that the chances dried up for both sides. With neither side able to get the ball to stick up front for long enough to worry the 'keepers, it would take until after seventy minutes for another chance of note, but again it ended with an O'Neill super stop. Maguire stood a cross up to the back post to Devine who saw his close-range header sensationally saved on the line, before O'Neill then denied Lusty on the follow up.

With eleven minutes left on the clock and a scoreless draw looking more and more likely, McMurray made way for youngster Noah Stewart, who made his debut after being named in the first team squad for the first time, and his first game in senior football couldn't have gone better.

The striker was proving useful as an outlet for United when they moved forward, and on eighty-seven minutes, just three minutes after Gael Bigirimana had went close with a free kick, Stewart became an instant hero with the winner. Substitute Alex Gawne picked the ball up from a Mitchell goal kick and ran forward before a ball across the box found Fraser Taylor free at the back post. The Scotsman brought it down before looking up and squaring the ball instead of shooting, and there was the teenager Noah Stewart on hand to slot home.

Like much of the day, Dungannon pushed in added time, but now failed to trouble O'Neill, as the visitors saw out a massive win. Despite not seeing much of the ball for large spells, United defended securely by and large, whilst also having O'Neill to thank for a dazzling display, as Stewart's late winner helps United to just a second win this season, both on the road.

Match report written by Philip McPeake (www.ballymenaunitedfc.com)

Squad Statistics (as at September 30th, 2023)

2023-2024 All Time
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 11 - 74 -
Corrie Burns20 3 - 3 -
Colin Coates37 8383
Steven McCullough29 10 - 2198
Scot Whiteside26 11 - 1091
Dylan Boyle21 2 - 2 -
John McGuigan30 10 - 10 -
Kym Nelson28 11 - 665
Donal Rocks23 6 - 6 -
Fraser Taylor20 9 - 9 -
Jonathan McMurray29 10110833
Lewis Tennant (sub)19 5 - 6 -
Alex Gawne (sub)22 7 - 7 -
Fiontan O'Boyle (sub)19 9 - 9 -
Noah Stewart (sub)19 1111

League Table (as at September 30th, 2023)

Pld W D L Pts
1. Linfield 10 8 1 1 25
2. Larne 10 6 3 1 21
3. Cliftonville 10 6 2 2 20
4. Crusaders 10 6 2 2 20
5. Glentoran 10 5 2 3 17
6. Loughgall 10 4 3 3 15
7. Coleraine 10 4 2 4 14
8. Carrick 10 3 1 6 10
9. Dungannon 10 1 4 5 7
10. Glenavon 10 2 1 7 7
11. Newry 10 2 1 7 7
12. BALLYMENA 10 2 0 8 6