Linfield 4
Ballymena United 0
League (NIFL Premiership)


Linfield 

4 - 0

Ballymena United


League (NIFL Premiership)
Saturday, November 25th, 2023
Windsor Park
Attendance: 3,041
3:00 PM Kick-off


Goalscorers
Matthew Fitzpatrick (10)
Kirk Millar (24)
Kyle McClean (66)
Matthew Fitzpatrick (79)
None.

Team Managers
David Healy Jim Ervin

Starting Eleven
1. Christopher Johns
2. Daniel Finlayson
3. Euan East
5. Chris Shields
7. Kirk Millar
8. Kyle McClean
9. Joel Cooper
12. Darragh McBrien
15. Ben Hall
16. Matthew Clarke
29. Matthew Fitzpatrick
Sean O'Neill .1
Steven McCullough .11
TJ Murray .20
Scot Whiteside .5
Dylan Boyle .28
Andrew McGrory .17
John McGuigan .14
Fraser Taylor .16
Lewis Tennant .21
Alex Gawne .7
Isaac Westendorf .37

Bench
51. David Walsh
4. Michael Newberry
17. Chris McKee
22. Jamie Mulgrew
34. Dane McCullough
60. Aodhan Doherty
65. Ceadach O'Neill
Sam Johnston .26
Shea McAuley .32
Caleb Crawford .22
Marc Walsh .19
Michael Place .30
Ryan Waide .10
Noah Stewart .33

Substitutions
Jamie Mulgrew for Chris Shields (66)
Aodan Doherty for Joel Cooper (79)
Ceadach O'Neill for Kirk Millar (79)
Dane McCullough for Matthew Clarke (86)
Michael Newberry for Ben Hall (86)
Ryan Waide for TJ Murray (65)
Michael Place for John McGuigan (83)
Noah Stewart for Isaac Westendorf (83)

Cautions
Euan East (49) Andrew McGrory (36)

Red Cards
None. None.

Match Officials

Christopher Morrison (Referee)
Brian Wilson & David Burns (Assistants)
Shane Andrews (Fourth Official)



Match Report


Ballymena United left Belfast with a heavy defeat for the second week running as they were on the wrong end of a 4-0 defeat to Linfield at The National Stadium at Windsor Park on Saturday.

Following last Saturday's disastrous showing in a 5-0 loss to Glentoran, manager Jim Ervin rung four changes for his first game in the dugout as boss at his old stomping ground, including returns to the starting XI at the back for Andy McGrory and Lewis Tennant.

If United had been hoping to show a response to last week's drubbing, those plans were in jeopardy early on as it took just ten minutes for the Blues to move ahead. A stunning save from Sean O'Neill had denied Linfield an opener a minute prior as he got down low to palm wide a deflected effort from Matthew Fitzpatrick, but eventually off the resulting corner, Joel Cooper danced into the box with ease before crossing for Fitzpatrick, who had time six yards out to trap the ball and fire it home.

Five minutes later it possibly should've been two when Daniel Finlayson was picked out free as a bird at the back post, but his header was held by O'Neill, however, in the twenty-fourth minute, O'Neill could do nothing as Kirk Millar doubled Linfield's lead. The Sky Blues were wasteful with a free kick in a good position and with plenty of men forward, they were caught short on the counter as Kyle McClean released Darragh McBrien, and with it two on one McBrien squared the ball across to Millar who showed nice composure to cut back inside to finish.

Those who travelled to Windsor may have feared another first half capitulation when in the next attack after the second goal Linfield forced a corner, which they took quick with United asleep at the back, but Chris Shields' rasping effort from the edge of the box was well saved by O'Neill.

On the half mark Isaac Westendorf, who was a lonely figure at times up top, gave United's supporters their first bit of excitement in the half when he charged through on a counter attack, but Shields was able to keep up with him before putting in a perfectly timed tackle on the slide, as the Braidmen went to the break trailing by two.

Such is Ballymena's current predicament of form, a poor opening half was at least an improvement on last week, but to the visitor's credit they came out with a bit more purpose to begin the second half. Three minutes in, that purpose really should've been rewarded with a goal when John McGuigan thumped a good ball over the top for Westendorf to chase, which he was able to after a slip by Euan East, but a poor first touch when he had all the time and space in the world allowed Chris Johns to come out and smother the striker's effort on goal.

After allowing United a ten minute spell, David Healy's men soon relinquished control back as McBrien bent an attempt straight at O'Neill, before Matthew Clarke crossed for Fitzpatrick who turned the ball goalwards, but it was batted away by O'Neill.

Given the lack of threat being carried by Ballymena, many may have felt Linfield were safe at 2-0, but any doubts were ended with a third on sixty-eight minutes. After the defence's exchanged a couple of long clearances back and forth, Linfield got one to stick and a couple of passes later Cooper slotted the ball into McClean, who finished neatly into the bottom far corner.

In a rare piece of pressure in and around the Linfield box, Westendorf and Fraser Taylor combined well before the latter struck straight at Johns, but with the game long gone, after O'Neill did well to deny Finlayson again, the hosts added a fourth. Ballymena were again done from a set piece as Millar whipped a free kick in from close the corner flag, and somehow Fitzpatrick got himself ahead of three men in black to nod home with a diving header.

The Blues had hardly been out of third gear all day and with four goals tucked away it was a fairly quiet final few minutes as Linfield returned to the league's summit with a comfortable afternoon's work, with Ballymena simply unable to match them all day in another worrying defeat in terms of scoreline.

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



Squad Statistics (as at November 25th, 2023)


2023-2024 All Time
Age
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 19 - 82 -
Steven McCullough29 19 - 2288
TJ Murray28 7 - 7 -
Scot Whiteside26 2011182
Dylan Boyle21 12 - 12 -
Andrew McGrory31 10 - 15125
John McGuigan30 16 - 16 -
Fraser Taylor20 19 - 19 -
Lewis Tennant19 11 - 12 -
Alex Gawne22 162162
Isaac Westendorf22 123123
Michael Place (sub)25 18 - 786
Ryan Waide (sub)23 15313118
Noah Stewart (sub)19 113113



League Table (as at November 25th, 2023)


Pld W D L Pts
1. Linfield 17 14 1 2 43
2. Larne 18 12 5 1 41
3. Cliftonville 18 12 2 4 38
4. Crusaders 17 9 4 4 31
5. Glentoran 18 8 4 6 28
6. Coleraine 18 7 4 7 25
7. Glenavon 18 7 1 10 22
8. Loughgall 18 6 3 9 21
9. Carrick 18 6 2 10 20
10. Dungannon 18 3 6 9 15
11. BALLYMENA 18 3 1 14 10
12. Newry 18 3 1 14 10