Glenavon 0
Ballymena United 1
League (NIFL Premiership)


Glenavon 

0 - 1

Ballymena United


League (NIFL Premiership)
Saturday, December 30th, 2023
Mourneview Park
Attendance: 980
3:00 PM Kick-off


Goalscorers
None. Fraser Taylor (36)

Team Managers
Stephen McDonnell Jim Ervin

Starting Eleven
1. Rory Brown
2. Conor Kerr
4. Calum Birney
7. Matthew Snoddy
10. Peter Campbell
11. Niall Quinn
16. Isaac Baird
20. Stephen Teggart
23. Daniel Wallace
27. Jamie McDonagh
30. Sean Ward
Sean O'Neill .1
Shea McAuley .32
Steven McCullough .11
Scot Whiteside .5
Dylan Boyle .28
Michael Place .30
Donal Rocks .4
Fraser Taylor .16
Lewis Tennant .21
Jonathan McMurray .27
Noah Stewart .33

Bench
31. Ben Purvis
8. Jack Malone
21. Aaron Prendergast
34. Cohen Henderson
38. Johnny McCullough
49. Daniel Shiel
53.Zach Woolsey
Sam Johnston .26
TJ Murray .20
Andrew McGrory .17
Cathair Friel .9
Fiontan O'Boyle .15
David Taylor .23
Ryan Waide .10

Substitutions
Jack Malone for Conor Kerr (46)
Aaron Prendergast for Jamie McDonagh (46)
Ryan Waide for Noah Stewart (75)
Andrew McGrory for Michael Place (75)
Cathair Friel for Jonathan McMurray (84)

Cautions
Matthew Snoddy (60) None.

Red Cards
None. None.

Match Officials

Declan Hassan (Referee)
Octavian George Neacsu & Adam Jeffrey (Assistants)
Diarmuid Harrigan (Fourth Official)





Match Report


Ballymena United recorded back-to-back league wins for the first time this season after a Fraser Taylor wondergoal gave them a 1-0 win over Glenavon on an emotional Saturday afternoon at Mourneview Park.

After a thrilling Boxing Day win over Coleraine on Tuesday, Jim Ervin made three changes for the trip to Mid Ulster, including returns to the squad for Lewis Tennant and Donal Rocks, but prior to kick off a minute's silence was held in memory of Lydia Ross and Jackie Murray.

Inside a minute of proceedings getting underway, United had an opportunity to go in front when Johnny McMurray did well down the left and his crossed fell for Rocks at the back post, but his first time effort flew just over. Following that early opening, the Sky Blues were putting together some tidy enough passages of play, but the chances and pressure were coming the way of the hosts.

A number of corners caused problems in the Ballymena box, the most notable one seeing a Calum Birney header cleared off the line by Mikey Place. The Lurgan Blues almost went ahead when Peter Campbell edged in and in off the right hand side before bending a shot narrowly wide, and a few minutes later Jamie McDonagh found Stephen Teggart inside the box, but from close range he was denied by a top drawer Sean O'Neill save.

With twenty-one minutes on the clock, the ball was put out of play as the players, officials and benches joined both sets of supporters, as well as those involved in every other game in the Irish league, in a minute of applause to pay tribute to Lydia Ross, after the lifelong Ballymena fan tragically lost her life on Thursday evening at the age of just 21.

When play got back underway following the poignant tribute to Lydia, Ballymena continued to string together some neat attacks, most involving the likes of McMurray, Steven McCullough and Mikey Place who were outstanding all half, and after Fraser Taylor had an effort deflect wide following another top move, the Scotsman put United ahead on thirty-seven minutes with a first goal for the club that was well worth the wait. Taylor, who had covered every blade of grass in the first half, picked the ball up well inside his own half, before embarked on a stunning solo run. A drop of the shoulder took out two Glenavon players on halfway, and after dancing his way through the host's half, Taylor cut back in past another man in blue on the edge of the box, before placing a shot perfectly into the bottom corner.

Before the break, McCullough and Noah Stewart combined well again, with the left wing back flawless going forward and back all day, but Stewart could only fire over, as a really good half from the Braidmen saw them ahead at the break.

The first half had been good going forward from Ballymena after seeing out a strong opening twenty minutes from Glenavon, but the second half required much more of a professional display at the back as Glenavon dominated.

Aaron Prendergast was introduced for the home side at the break and inside three minutes almost had his team level when he got the better of Scot Whiteside after being slid in by Niall Quinn, but his shot from a really tight angle went agonisingly across goal and wide. Further chances came quickly afterwards as Isaac Baird headed straight at O'Neill, before Teggart should've done better when he skewed a shot wide in a great position.

By the hour mark it was all Glenavon with Ballymena unable to keep possession when they did get it, and inside a couple of minutes there were two big let offs. First, one of the only bits of poor defending from United resulted in Prendergast putting a header wide by inches as O'Neill could only watch on and pray, but a couple of minutes later the 'keeper made a truly exceptional save down to his right to deny Teggart again.

As Ballymena edged closer to a huge result, they had Shea McAuley to thank for maintaining their lead when he produced a stunning last-ditch tackle to divert a shot from Prendergast over after he'd broke through. And following that block, the away side managed to get a hold on the game for a few minutes and nearly made it 2-0 when a devilish ball in from McCullough only needed a touch from McAuley, though he couldn't get it, but Rory Brown still did well to keep the cross out.

The final ten or so minutes were simply all Glenavon, but as countless balls came into the box, United's back line dealt with most of them, with the memo reading simply to clear the danger as far as possible. When chances did come, Birney volleyed wide and Sean Ward fired over, before with the last kick of the game, and after four minutes of added time had long since been played, Danny Wallace drove forward and crossed for Birney, who headed a great opportunity over, as United held on.

A massive three points for the second time in five days for United, who end a tough year on a bit of a high with finally some momentum heading into 2024, but all on a day were football somewhat pales into insignificance.

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



Squad Statistics (as at December 30th, 2023)


2023-2024 All Time
Age
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 25 - 88 -
Shea McAuley17 3 - 3 -
Steven McCullough29 25 - 2348
Scot Whiteside26 2611242
Dylan Boyle21 17 - 17 -
Michael Place25 23 - 836
Donal Rocks23 17 - 17 -
Fraser Taylor20 251251
Lewis Tennant19 14 - 15 -
Jonathan McMurray29 17411536
Noah Stewart19 175175
Andrew McGrory (sub)32 14 - 15525
Cathair Friel (sub)30 4 - 16670
Ryan Waide (sub)23 20313618



League Table (as at December 30th, 2023)


Pld W D L Pts
1. Linfield 23 18 2 3 56
2. Larne 24 16 7 1 55
3. Cliftonville 23 16 3 4 51
4. Crusaders 23 12 5 6 41
5. Glentoran 23 11 5 7 38
6. Coleraine 24 8 5 11 29
7. Loughgall 24 8 4 12 28
8. Carrick 24 8 3 13 27
9. Glenavon 24 8 2 14 26
10. Dungannon 24 5 6 13 21
11. BALLYMENA 24 5 3 16 18
12. Newry 24 3 3 18 12