Cliftonville 2
Ballymena United 0
League (NIFL Premiership)


Cliftonville 

2 - 0

Ballymena United


League (NIFL Premiership)
Saturday, December 23rd, 2023
Solitude
Attendance: 1,636
3:00 PM Kick-off


Goalscorers
Odhran Casey (30)
Ronan Hale (73)
None.

Team Managers
Jim Magilton Jim Ervin

Starting Eleven
23. David Odumosu
4. Jonathan Addis
6. Christopher Gallagher
8. Rory Hale
10. Stephen Mallon
17. Ronan Doherty
22. Odhran Casey
24. Luke Turner
25. Ronan Hale
26. Shea Kearney
27. Ben Wilson
Sean O'Neill .1
Shea McAuley .32
Steven McCullough .11
TJ Murray .20
Scot Whiteside .5
Andrew McGrory .17
Kym Nelson .2
Michael Place .30
Fraser Taylor .16
Jonathan McMurray .27
Isaac Westendorf .37

Bench
1. Nathan Gartside
2. Connor Pepper
3. Sean Stewart
7. Chris Curran
19. Joe Gormley
20. Sam Ashford
28. Stephen McGuinness
Sam Johnston .26
Caleb Crawford .22
Fiontan O'Boyle .15
Noah Stewart .33
David Taylor .23
Ryan Waide .10

Substitutions
Sean Stewart for Stephen Mallon (71)
Chris Curran for Ronan Doherty (75)
Joe Gormley for Ronan Hale (75)
Sam Ashford for Rory Hale (86)
Ryan Waide for TJ Murray (73)
Noah Stewart for Jonathan McMurray (83)

Cautions
None. None.

Red Cards
None. None.

Match Officials

Tim Marshall (Referee)
John Doherty & Gavin Hegarty (Assistants)
Ian McNabb (Fourth Official)



Match Report


Ballymena United's winless and goalless run continues as a goal in either half gave Cliftonville a 2-0 victory over the Sky Blues at Solitude on Saturday afternoon.

After last Friday's defeat at home to Carrick, Jim Ervin made three changes for the trip to North Belfast, including a drop out for Donal Rocks against his parent club, whilst Shea McAuley made his first start for United.

On what was sure to be a difficult trip to the capital, a struggling and short of numbers Ballymena made a decent start, and inside eight minutes had strong penalty appeals for handball waved away after good work from Isaac Westendorf, before the same man forced a save out of David Odumosu.

After a bright opening fifteen from the visitors, the Reds soon began to control things, as Sean O'Neill had to pull off a stunning save to keep the hosts out, but it was a save from an Andy McGrory header as the full back skewed a header towards his own goal from a Cliftonville free kick. As the hosts' chances continued to fall at a steady rate, Ronan Hale fired wide from the edge of the box when he had far too much space, before Ben Wilson was kept out by O'Neill who tipped over at his near post.

Just short of the half hour mark, United tested Odumosu again when Kym Nelson headed on a free kick into the path of Mikey Place, but from just outside the box he didn't cause the Cliftonville 'keeper many issues.

With thirty-one minutes gone, the home side opened the scoring thanks to an odd goal that left United disappointed. A corner routine to the edge of the box found Rohan Doherty who smacked a shot off the crossbar, and on the rebound Odhran Casey headed home from beyond the penalty spot, but Ballymena felt a flag for offside should've came as Wilson hurdled the ball next to O'Neill to see it home.

The final fifteen minutes of the opening half were pretty eventless as strong winds and rain hampered play, but at the beginning of the second half Cliftonville should've been two up inside a minute. Luke Turner's cross from the left was headed down by Rory Hale to his brother Ronan, but at point blank range he hammered wide.

As Cliftonville maintained the upper hand, United were defending resolutely and just past the hour mark they were almost level. Steven McCullough's floated in free kick caught the wind and drove its way towards the Cliftonville goal, where it was just about hooked off the line. The rebound fell to Johnny McMurray, whose goal bound shot was blocked into the path of Place, whose weak effort was held onto by Odumosu.

There was a feeling that may have been as close as Ballymena got as again the creation of chances was at a bare minimum, and following that trio of chances at once, the home side were venturing forward again. A Rory Hale half volley was well saved by O'Neill, before the 'keeper did well again to bat away a long range effort from Jonny Addis, but he did even better to put a Wilson effort onto the bar.

However, with seventeen minutes left, Cliftonville put the game to bed with a second. Jim Magilton's men moved forward down the right, and one defence splitting ball from Wilson was enough to put Ronan Hale in, and he easily slotted home.

Ryan Waide replaced TJ Murray after the goal, but with the Braidmen struggling to get anywhere near the Reds' box, United's cause looked a lost one.

The last fifteen minutes were much like the ending of the first with very little happening, as Ballymena did their best but could create next to nothing, while the Reds were content with the two goal buffer. In the dying embers Wilson fired wide twice, but that was it for in a game in which United stuck to the task well for large parts, but ultimately could create little again, as they fail to score for a seventh straight game, and avoid being bottom at Christmas on goal difference.

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



Squad Statistics (as at December 23rd, 2023)


2023-2024 All Time
Age
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 23 - 86 -
Shea McAuley17 1 - 1 -
Steven McCullough29 23 - 2328
TJ Murray28 8 - 8 -
Scot Whiteside26 2411222
Andrew McGrory32 12 - 15325
Kym Nelson28 20 - 755
Michael Place25 21 - 816
Fraser Taylor20 23 - 23 -
Jonathan McMurray29 15311335
Isaac Westendorf22 153153
Ryan Waide (sub)23 18313418
Noah Stewart (sub)19 153153



League Table (as at December 23rd, 2023)


Pld W D L Pts
1. Linfield 21 17 1 3 52
2. Larne 22 15 6 1 51
3. Cliftonville 22 15 3 4 48
4. Glentoran 22 11 5 6 38
5. Crusaders 21 11 5 5 38
6. Coleraine 22 8 5 9 29
7. Carrick 22 8 3 11 27
8. Glenavon 22 7 2 13 23
9. Loughgall 22 6 4 12 22
10. Dungannon 22 4 6 12 18
11. BALLYMENA 22 3 3 16 12
12. Newry 22 3 3 16 12