Ballymena United 0
Carrick Rangers 2
League (NIFL Premiership)

Ballymena United
0 - 2

League (NIFL Premiership)
Friday, December 15th, 2023
Ballymena Showgrounds
Attendance: 772
7:45 PM Kick-off

None. David Cushley (28) (pen.)
Daniel Purkis (90)

Team Managers
Jim Ervin
Stuart KIng

Starting Eleven
1. Sean O'Neill
22. Caleb Crawford
11. Steven McCullough
5. Scot Whiteside
28. Dylan Boyle
17. Andrew McGrory
2. Kym Nelson
30. Michael Place
4. Donal Rocks
16. Fraser Taylor
37. Isaac Westendorf
Ross Glendinning .1
Cameron Stewart .3
Albert Watson .5
Steven Gordon .6
David Cushley .7
Curtis Allen .10
Nedas Maciulatis .11
Lewis MacKinnon .12
Joe Crowe .19
Daniel Purkis .24
Ben Tilney .39

26. Sam Johnston
32. Shea McAuley
20. TJ Murray
27. Jonathan McMurray
33. Noah Stewart
23. David Taylor
10. Ryan Waide
Ben McCauley .25
Mark Surgenor .4
Callum Mills .14
Benjamin Buchanan-Rolleston .15
Jack Montgomery .16
Joshua Andrews .17
Jaydyn Withers .22

Noah Stewart for Michael Place (61)
David Taylor for Andrew McGrory (66)
Jonathan McMurray for Caleb Crawford (75)
Joshua Andrews for David Cushley (65)
Benjamin Buchanan-Rolleston for Nedas Maciulatis (89)
Mark Surgenor for Joe Crowe (90)

Dylan Boyle (47)
Donal Rocks (90)
Joe Crowe (61)
Steven Gordon (79)
Joshua Andrews (85)
Curtis Allen (90)

Red Cards
None. None.
Match Officials

Shane Andrews (Referee)
David Burns & Kristian Hanna (Assistants)
Michael McKenna (Fourth Official)

Photography by Carrick Rangers FC

Match Report

Ballymena United have now gone six league games without a goal after another struggling display in front of goal led to a 2-0 defeat to Carrick Rangers at The Showgrounds on Friday night.

There were three changes for United from the side that recorded a second straight 0-0 draw a week ago in Newry, including a first start from Caleb Crawford, who replaced the suspended Lewis Tennant.

In what was their final home game before Christmas, the Sky Blues were in desperate need of an early gift of three points, and they started well on Warden Street. Seven minutes in a decent chance went begging when Mikey Place's second ball in from a corner found the unmarked Crawford, but he could only glance his header wide. Six minutes later, another good opening came and went. Place was wiped out down the right flank, but United looked to cash in on the advantage that was played, however when Donal Rocks drove to the byline and cut the ball back to Fraser Taylor, he could only fire over.

As the hosts continued to look alright in spells, they were struggling to worry Ross Glendinning in the Carrick goal, and after he'd comfortably saved from Taylor, down the other end a fairly innocuous long ball forward ended up with Carrick awarded a penalty. Curtis Allen got onto the ball and on the byline did well to keep it in, but his cross struck the arm of Scot Whiteside and Shane Andrews pointed to the spot. David Cushley stepped up, and the former Sky Blue sent Sean O'Neill the wrong way to put Rangers one up against the run of play.

David Cushley's spot kick came on twenty-eight minutes, and from then till half time there was little to talk about with Carrick still not offering much, but a number of slack passes were derailing any hopes of a Ballymena leveller, and right on half time an almighty mess at the back almost saw United down by two. Crawford's header back to O'Neill from some distance away was always short, but as Crawford struggled to get back, and O'Neill slow off his line, Danny Purkis pounced. The striker took the ball and rounded Whiteside, but with the goal at his mercy and little to do, incredibly he fired over to let United off.

The second half was going to require a response from the hosts as they looked to get back level in a game they were unlucky to be behind in, but for the majority of the half, certainly until late on, an attacking threat was non-existent.

Inside a couple of minutes of the restart, Dylan Boyle was booked for a robust challenge, with a bit of aggro afterwards in a game that at times threatened to boil over, but a couple of minutes later Purkis let Ballymena off the hook again. A strike across goal from Allen was saved by O'Neill, but he could only parry it across the six-yard box where Purkis was waiting and looked certain to score, but he seemed to get stuck in the ground as he turned, and the ball luckily flew past his boot.

To try and add some impetus up top, Jim Ervin introduced Noah Stewart for Place, before David Taylor replaced Andy McGrory, who exited with a knock.

Heading into the final twenty minutes, Ballymena's huffing and puffing continued to lack any threat in the final third, and after O'Neill did well to deny Purkis, Johnny McMurray was thrown on for Crawford, with United now incredibly top heavy in terms of forwards.

With ten minutes to go, the home side finally called Glendinning into action, when a flick on found Isaac Westendorf, who'd been quiet on the night, but again he was left to rue a missed opportunity as he fired straight at the 'keeper from close range.

In the final five minutes, it was virtually all United as they launched a countless number of balls into the Carrick box, but the majority were met by an amber head. On the occasions they weren't, McMurray headed over from a Steven McCullough free kick, before in added time McMurray fired over and McCullough thundered a shot well wide.

That McCullough effort looked like Ballymena's last hope, and it was as from the resulting goal kick Carrick found a second. Glendinning's lump forward was poorly dealt with by the host's back line, which allowed Danny Purkis to race clear and coolly slot past O'Neill.

For United, a decent enough first half was met by an extremely toiling second to condemn them to defeat, with their shortcomings in front of goal becoming an extremely worrying concern.

Match report written by Philip McPeake (

Squad Statistics (as at December 15th, 2023)

2023-2024 All Time
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 22 - 85 -
Caleb Crawford18 3 - 3 -
Steven McCullough29 22 - 2318
Scot Whiteside26 2311212
Dylan Boyle21 15 - 15 -
Andrew McGrory32 11 - 15225
Kym Nelson28 19 - 745
Michael Place25 20 - 806
Donal Rocks23 16 - 16 -
Fraser Taylor20 22 - 22 -
Isaac Westendorf22 143143
David Taylor (sub)17 3 - 3 -
Jonathan McMurray (sub)29 14311235
Noah Stewart (sub)19 143143

League Table (as at December 15th, 2023)

Pld W D L Pts
1. Larne 21 14 6 1 48
2. Linfield 19 15 1 3 46
3. Cliftonville 20 13 3 4 42
4. Crusaders 20 10 5 5 35
5. Glentoran 20 9 5 6 32
6. Coleraine 20 8 5 7 29
7. Carrick 21 7 3 11 24
8. Glenavon 20 7 2 11 23
9. Loughgall 20 6 4 10 22
10. Dungannon 20 3 6 11 15
11. BALLYMENA 21 3 3 15 12
12. Newry 20 3 3 14 12