Cliftonville 3
Ballymena United 0
League (NIFL Premiership)


3 - 0

Ballymena United

League (NIFL Premiership)
Saturday, January 20th, 2024
Attendance: 1,710
3:00 PM Kick-off

Ronan Hale (33) (pen.)
Ronan Hale (60)
Ronan Doherty (79)

Team Managers
Jim Magilton Jim Ervin

Starting Eleven
23. David Odumosu
3. Sean Stewart
4. Jonathan Addis
7. Christopher Curran
17. Ronan Doherty
22. Odhran Casey
25. Ronan Hale
26. Shea Kearney
27. Ben Wilson
28. Stephen McGuinness
32. Ben Wylie
Sean O'Neill .1
Steven McCullough .11
Scot Whiteside .5
Sean Brown .29
Fraser Taylor .16
Andrew McGrory .17
Lewis Tennant .21
Kym Nelson .2
Dylan Boyle .28
Michael Place .30
Ryan Waide .10

1. Nathan Gartside
2. Conor Pepper
5. Luke Kenny
15. Reece Jordan
16. Shea Gordon
19. Joe Gormley
37. Ryan Corrigan
Sam Johnston .26
Shea McAuley .32
Ben Mallon .34
Fiontan O'Boyle .15
Noah Stewart .33
Cathair Friel .9
David Taylor .23

Joe Gormley for Ben Wilson (38)
Shea Gordon for Ben Wylie (61)
Conor Pepper for Christopher Curran (74)
Noah Stewart for Andrew McGrory (63)
Cathair Friel for Ryan Waide (82)
Ben Mallon for Michael Place (82)
Fiontan O'Boyle for Steven McCullough (90)

Christopher Curran (68) Scot Whiteside (51)

Red Cards
None. None.

Match Officials

Ben McMaster (Referee)
Stephen Bell & Stephen Donaldson (Assistants)
Shane Andrews (Fourth Official)

Match Report

Ballymena United once again returned home from the capital empty handed this season as an improved performance couldn't stop a 3-0 defeat to Cliftonville at Solitude on Saturday afternoon.

Suspensions and ineligibility prompted Jim Ervin into three changes for the trip to North Belfast from the side that lost to Dungannon a week ago, as Johnny McMurray, Donal Rocks and Jamie Robinson dropped out for Ryan Waide, Andy McGrory and Lewis Tennant.

Looking to hit back after a hugely disappointing showing last Saturday, United made a decent start here and whilst Cliftonville had most of the ball and a few chances, the Sky Blues were more than holding their own. The Reds opening effort came eleven minutes in when Ben Wilson was slid in, but as he looked to lift his shot over Sean O'Neill, United's shot stopper made a sensational save to tip the ball onto the crossbar. A couple of minutes later an innocuous low ball in from the left via Chris Curran trundled it's way into the box for former Ballymena man Ben Wylie to meet, but at close range he skewed his shot wide.

Those two chances, as good as they were, aside, a solid in shape Ballymena were keeping Cliftonville at bay and down the other end Fraser Taylor won the ball back in his own half and surged forward before finding Mikey Place on the edge of the box, but he fired straight at David Odumosu in United's first opening.

More half chances came and went for the hosts before they struck the crossbar for a second time when Hale's header came back off the woodwork, but on thirty-two minutes Ballymena's resistance was broken in controversial circumstances. After the visitors dealt with a corner, the ball broke on the right for Sean Stewart who made his way to the box before he hit the floor when challenged by Dylan Boyle. After a long hesitation, referee Ben McMaster pointed to the spot, with all those of Sky Blue persuasion left incensed as the contact appeared minimal, if any at all. The penalty stood, allowing Ronan Hale to step up, and he coolly slotted the ball past O'Neill into the bottom corner to put the hosts ahead, a lead they held to the break with little action in the final ten or so minutes.

Despite having their crossbar hit twice in the first period, Ballymena no doubt felt a little unfortunate to be behind at the break, and they started the second half in decent fashion. Inside the opening minute Place and Taylor combined well before the latter showed tremendous feet to work space for a shot from eighteen yards, but Odumosu easily saved. Seconds later Hale had another opening at the city end for Cliftonville, but from well out he struck just over. Ten minutes later Hale, one of few in red to be causing Ballymena's sturdy back line any real issues, was in again, but one on one with O'Neill he was denied well by the forthcoming keeper.

Come the hour mark it was a similar story for United from so many other games this season, with Ervin's men putting some good passages of play together but ultimately coming up short in the final third, as Waide and Place were denied from half chances, before Cliftonville made their opponents pay with a second goal. Joe Gormley and Hale combined well down the right, before Ronan Hale cut in past Scot Whiteside inside the box and saw his shot wriggle under O'Neill and have just enough pace to cross the line before an impressive Sean Brown could clear the ball.

Noah Stewart replaced McGrory after Hale's second, but again for Ballymena the theme of plenty of good play, but a real lack of chances, continued. The teenage striker did well to chase a ball down the left and find Waide, who had a good second half, but he could only fire wide, before both he and Place called Odumosu into routine saves.

With ten minutes to go, any slim hopes Ballymena had of taking anything back down the road were extinguished through a simply stunning third from the Reds. From very little, Ronan Doherty picked the ball up about twenty yards from goal, and after spinning an otherwise faultless Kym Nelson, Doherty unleashed the most unstoppable of curling efforts into the top corner, leaving O'Neill standing to watch, but two of the 'keeper wouldn't have kept it out anyway.

Involved in a trio of late changes for Ballymena was the introduction of seventeen-year-old Ben Mallon to make his debut for the club, the latest teenager to make the step up, but it finished in a 3-0 defeat for United, and whilst the showing wasn't bad, in their precarious position, it's points over performances needed.

Match report written by Philip McPeake (

Squad Statistics (as at January 20th, 2024)

2023-2024 All Time
Sean O'Neill (GK)35 27 - 90 -
Steven McCullough29 2812379
Scot Whiteside26 2911272
Sean Brown18 3 - 3 -
Michael Place25 262868
Andrew McGrory32 15 - 15625
Dylan Boyle22 20 - 20 -
Fraser Taylor20 282282
Kym Nelson28 23 - 785
Lewis Tennant19 16 - 17 -
Ryan Waide23 23313918
Ben Mallon (sub) - 1 - 1 -
Cathair Friel (sub)30 7116971
Fiontan O'Boyle (sub)19 191191
Noah Stewart (sub)19 206206

League Table (as at January 20th, 2024)

Pld W D L Pts
1. Linfield 26 21 2 3 65
2. Larne 26 18 7 1 61
3. Cliftonville 25 18 3 4 57
4. Glentoran 24 12 5 7 41
5. Crusaders 26 12 5 9 41
6. Carrick 26 9 3 14 30
7. Glenavon 25 9 2 14 29
8. Coleraine 26 8 5 13 29
9. Loughgall 25 8 4 13 28
10. Dungannon 26 6 6 14 24
11. BALLYMENA 26 5 3 18 18
12. Newry 25 3 3 19 12