Ballymena United 3
Coleraine 1
League (NIFL Premiership)


Ballymena United
3 - 1
Coleraine 

League (NIFL Premiership)
Tuesday, December 26th, 2023
Ballymena Showgrounds
Attendance: 2,850
3:00 PM Kick-off

Goalscorers
Jonathan McMurray (47)
Noah Stewart (74)
Noah Stewart (90)
Dean Jarvis (33)

Team Managers
Jim Ervin
Oran Kearney

Starting Eleven
1. Sean O'Neill
32. Shea McAuley
11. Steven McCullough
5. Scot Whiteside
28. Dylan Boyle
17. Andrew McGrory
2. Kym Nelson
30. Michael Place
16. Fraser Taylor
27. Jonathan McMurray
37. Isaac Westendorf
Gareth Deane .1
Lyndon Kane .2
Dean Jarvis .3
Aaron Jarvis .6
Conor McKendry .7
Kieran Farren .14
Jamie Glackin .17
Darren Cole .20
Jack O'Mahony .21
Andrew Mitchell .22
Andrew Scott .29

Bench
26. Sam Johnston
22. Caleb Crawford
20. TJ Murray
15. Fiontan O'Boyle
33. Noah Stewart
23. David Taylor
10. Ryan Waide
Martin Gallagher .12
Stephen Lowry .8
Michael McCrudden. 26
Lee McLaughlin .28
Senan Devine .31
Alfie Gaston .32
Ciaran O'Hara .49

Substitutions
Noah Stewart for Isaac Westendorf (46)
Ryan Waide for Andrew McGrory (71)
David Taylor for Jonathan McMurray (81)
Stephen Lowry for Jamie Glackin (76)
Lee McLaughlin for Darren Cole (81)
Ciaran O'Hara for Andrew Mitchell (81)
Michael McCrudden for Jack O'Mahony (86)

Cautions
Shea McAuley (25)
Scot Whiteside (45)
Jonathan McMurray (78)
Jack O'Mahony (10)
Lyndon Kane (45)
Jamie Glackin (70)
Conor McKendry (85)

Red Cards
None. Conor McKendry (88)
Match Officials

Ian McNabb (Referee)
David Burns & Shane Corrigan (Assistants)
Keith Kennedy (Fourth Official)




Match Report


Ballymena United put an end to their winless run in style as they came from behind to beat Coleraine 3-1 in the Boxing Day derby at The Showgrounds on Tuesday afternoon.

Just three days after suffering defeat to Cliftonville in North Belfast, Jim Ervin made just the one change for his first Boxing Day derby in charge of the Sky Blues, as Dylan Boyle returned from suspension to replace TJ Murray.

As both sides came into the annual fixture on the back of some disappointing form, it was a huge match up in front of a sold out home end, but just six minutes in it was almost a well filled out away end celebrating an opener. A long ball forward was completely miskicked by Kym Nelson, who was otherwise flawless all afternoon, and landed for Conor McKendry who went clear, but he was denied by a fine Sean O'Neill stop.

On twelve minutes Ballymena were given a good chance to work Gareth Deane for the first time when Mikey Place was caught by a high foot just outside the box, but Steven McCullough was unlucky to see his bending free kick come back off the crossbar, and shortly afterwards Fraser Taylor ended a decent move by firing wide.

As the first half went on, there wasn't much between the teams in a game that maybe predictably lacked much cutting edge and end product, and that was proved when McKendry fired a ball across goal for an unmarked Andrew Mitchell, but from close range he slid in to meet the ball and somehow put it wide.

However, on thirty-three minutes the deadlock on Warden Street was broken as Coleraine drew first blood. A deflected effort from Jack O'Mahony worried O'Neill and forced him to parry over the crossbar, and from the resulting corner Dean Jarvis met the ball at the near post to head home.

Not long after conceding, the hosts had a half chance to level when McCullough's cross from the left found Andy McGrory on the right and he cut it back for Fraser Taylor, but he saw a weak shot blocked, as United headed to half time again behind, and again goalless.

In the last plays of the opening half, Isaac Westendorf was caught and left the pitch in considerable pain, and expectedly he didn't return for the second half, as he was replaced by the hero from when the sides last met in the league, Noah Stewart.

With just two minutes gone in the second half, Ballymena, who were about to embark on an outstanding second half, levelled the scores as they finally netted for the first time in over seven games. Place was hauled down as he surged down the right-hand side, and Coleraine's struggles in defending set pieces returned again when McCullough's free kick picked out a totally unmarked Jonathan McMurray, who neatly headed home to lift the home end.

Following McMurray's equaliser, the next quarter of an hour or so had very little by way of chances, but it was only the final pass lacking for the Braidmen as their performance levels everywhere else on the pitch lifted considerably. When a goalkeeper was finally called into action, with the way the game was going it was unsurprisingly Deane who was worked, as some more tidy play helped the ball find its way to Stewart on the edge of the box, but his low strike drew a good save from Coleraine's shot stopper.

A couple of minutes after Stewart's effort, Jamie Glackin almost had the Bannsiders back ahead with a superb dipping strike from a fair distance out, but his attempt flew just over, and a minute later Ballymena deservedly moved ahead thanks to a fine goal. Ryan Waide had replaced Andy McGrory only a matter of minutes before, and playing in the right wing back role, he conducted a fantastic move down the right with a wonderful run as he combined with Place, before Waide slid an inch perfect ball through for Noah Stewart, who expertly finished past Deane.

Coleraine looked to hit back, but on the times they did get forward, they were met by a wall at the back in the form of Nelson, Scot Whiteside and Shea McAuley, who didn't put a foot wrong. The Bannsiders task became harder with five minutes to go when they were reduced to ten men as McKendry saw red. The winger, who'd saw yellow just five minutes prior, received a straight red card for a really poor challenge on McCullough as he needlessly lunged in on the touchline.

As the derby entered six minutes of added time, United again dealt with anything a struggling Coleraine side tried to hit them with, and with the very last kick of ball Noah Stewart, who said prior to the game he'd again net twice in a 3-1 win, incredibly made sure history did repeat itself as he rounded off a memorable day. On the counter attack, David Taylor, who'd replaced McMurray late on, did well to slide Stewart through on goal as Coleraine pushed forward, and the teenager showed fantastic composure to round Deane and slot home.

A massive result for the Sky Blues, who have now recorded half of their league wins this season against their A26 rivals, and its a perfect late Christmas present after a dire run.

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



Squad Statistics (as at December 26th, 2023)


2023-2024 All Time
Age
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 24 - 87 -
Shea McAuley17 2 - 2 -
Steven McCullough29 24 - 2338
Scot Whiteside26 2511232
Dylan Boyle21 16 - 16 -
Andrew McGrory32 13 - 15425
Kym Nelson28 21 - 765
Michael Place25 22 - 826
Fraser Taylor20 24 - 24 -
Jonathan McMurray29 16411436
Isaac Westendorf22 163163
Ryan Waide (sub)23 19313518
David Taylor (sub)17 4 - 4 -
Noah Stewart (sub)19 165165



League Table (as at December 26th, 2023)


Pld W D L Pts
1. Linfield 22 18 1 3 55
2. Larne 23 16 6 1 54
3. Cliftonville 23 16 3 4 51
4. Glentoran 23 11 5 7 38
5. Crusaders 22 11 5 6 38
6. Coleraine 23 8 5 10 29
7. Carrick 23 8 3 12 27
8. Glenavon 23 8 2 13 26
9. Loughgall 23 7 4 12 25
10. Dungannon 23 4 6 13 18
11. BALLYMENA 23 4 3 16 15
12. Newry 23 3 3 17 12